A former executive with UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television sued the university Friday, alleging he was fired for complaining that the school’s dean was exaggerating the number of awards won by alumni.
Peter Heller’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges whistleblower retaliation and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking unspecified damages.
A UCLA spokesman did not immediately reply to request for comment.
According to the complaint, Heller was hired as the TFT school’s executive director of development in July 2009 and, during his tenure, “cultivated relationships with donors that led to several major gifts at the institution.”
Heller says he brought in two of the school’s top three most significant gifts of 2012 and was lauded for exceeding fundraising objectives.
During the 2009-10 school year, TFT school Director Terri Schwartz stated in a school publication and on the TFT website that the school’s alumni had won 105 Academy Awards, 278 Emmys, 79 Golden Globes and 16 Tony Awards, according to Heller’s suit.
“This assertion is a willful misstatement of the facts as Ms. Schwartz was not happy with the actual numbers and chose to combine the number of nominations and wins fraudulently to inflate the statistics,” the suit alleges.
Schwartz refused Heller’s request to correct the statistics, posted the same inaccurate data on the TFT website in February 2013 and again rejected Heller’s request for an accurate accounting, the suit alleges.
In May 2013, Heller complained — via a UCLA hotline — that Schwartz was staying at upscale hotels, flying at expensive rates and ordering “extravagant catering” during business travel, his suit states.
Instead of being praised for coming forward, he says UCLA Assistant Vice Chancellor Laura Parker presented him with a letter critical of his general performance, and he was fired in September 2013.
— City News Service