MCCCD moves forward on firing professor - East Valley Tribune: News

MCCCD moves forward on firing professor

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 5:47 pm | Updated: 11:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Maricopa County Community College District's governing board will move forward on firing a psychology professor suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with one of his students who died.

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Michael Todd, 51, a psychology professor at Paradise Valley Community College since 2000, did not appeal the college's decision to terminate him for having an alleged inappropriate relationship with Andria Ziegler, 19.

Ziegler was pronounced dead at 3:18 a.m. at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital on April 20, about 45 minutes after she was discovered in a comatose state in Todd's north Phoenix residence.

Ziegler's death is being investigated as an unknown death, and Todd is not a suspect in her death nor are there any suspects in her death, according to Phoenix police. The cause of her death is pending the completion of toxicology results, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

The five-member governing board will formally vote on whether to fire Todd at its June 10 meeting, according to Chris Chesrown, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Community College District.

A majority vote is needed to formally approve Todd's termination, and the board will move forward since no appeal was received from Todd at the end of the business day on Monday, Chesrown said.

Todd had five business days to appeal the college's decision to fire him and request a hearing in order to suspend the termination process.

Todd and his attorney have not returned repeated phone calls to the Tribune seeking comment.

Todd is also not answering questions from Phoenix police about the incident, according to a police report.

Todd had been placed on paid administrative leave from his job on April 22, the day Ziegler's parents informed college administrators that their daughter died after visiting Todd at his home.

During a nine-minute 911 call, Todd told a dispatcher that Ziegler had "sat around and did coke" and that he could not wake her up about an hour and a half after he went to bed as she slept on a couch. Todd also told police Ziegler drank 17 beers, according to a Phoenix police report.

In a letter to Todd dated May 8, Maricopa County Community College District Chancellor Rufus Glasper informed Todd that he was moving forward with Todd's termination because the professor violated the college's policy of prohibiting "amorous relationships" with students and violated professional standards.

Todd failed to inform his supervisors of the incident and did not provide identification of Ziegler at the hospital, the letter said.

In 2002, the college required Todd to complete an online sexual harassment program after a female student accused him of initiating inappropriate touching in his office and making sexual advances.

After an internal investigation, the college could not prove or disprove the allegations, and Todd denied any inappropriate activity with the woman.

Todd could become the sixth instructor at the 10-member Maricopa County Community College District to be terminated for harassment or inappropriate activity with a student since 2003, according to Chesrown.

Since 2003, colleges in the district have conducted 27 internal investigations into instructors regarding reported incidents of harassment or inappropriate activity.

Of those 27 investigations, 14 resulted in no findings or inconclusive, and six resulted in other disciplinary actions, according to information from the college.

Three instructors - one each at Scottsdale, Mesa and Glendale community colleges - are currently under investigation by school officials regarding harassment complaints, Chesrown said.

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