Moore’s lawsuit against College still pending

On Jan. 4, the College submitted its opposition to Bernard Moore’s latest motion. His original complaint, a lawsuit against the College for wrongful dismissal, is pending.

On Nov. 25, Moore filed a suit seeking damages of more than $1.3 million from the College. Subsequently, Moore had motioned for both a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, based on the claim that the College is required, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), to continue to extend him health insurance coverage. A court hearing regarding the request for the injunction is scheduled for Feb. 3 at the U.S. district court in Springfield, Mass.

Moore’s former professorship of democratic studies was terminated by the College last Nov. 16 after he entered a guilty plea in federal court on Nov. 9 to one count each of federal student loan fraud, social security fraud and credit card fraud. The charges outlined in the Statement of Offense include misrepresenting academic credentials, using false identities to procure loans and collecting social security disability benefits illegally.

Moore is scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. on Feb. 17, and faces 33 to 41 months in federal prison for fraud in excess of $820,000.

According to documents submitted to the district court in Springfield, the College opposes Moore’s injunction to restore the health care benefits he previously enjoyed as a professor at the College through COBRA . The College’s opposition is built principally on grounds that Moore is unlikely to prevail in the eventual COBRA claim that is part of his lawsuit against the College, as his dismissal was a result of “gross misconduct” on his part.

Existing interpretations of this part of the COBRA statute in federal case law suggest that actions that are “serious enough to warrant a felony conviction” can be defined as “gross misconduct,” and that they do not necessarily have to be directly injurious to the employer, in this case, the College. Other grounds for denying the injunction include that Moore is not faced with immediate, irreparable harm, and that neither the balance of harms nor the public interest favors such an injunction.

Moore has argued that the instances of fraud to which he pleaded guilty in November occurred before he was hired by the College, and thus should not be included in the consideration of any “gross misconduct” as terms for dismissal and termination of health insurance coverage.

However, careful examination of the Statement of the Offense signed by Moore indicate that he engaged in credit card fraud up until 2009, and that he received $9000 in student loans from Citibank under a false identity, using a false social security number, in Sept. 2008. These details suggest that at least some of the offenses for which Moore will be sentenced in February were committed in the period during which he was a professor at the College, starting in July 2008.

In addition, the College argues in its opposition to Moore’s motion that it would be “patently unjust” to reward Moore for successfully deceiving the administration with regard to his academic credentials, for concealing his prior criminal convictions (two felony counts of credit card fraud to which he pleaded guilty in 1987) and for concealing the ongoing investigation into his most recent fraudulent activity at the time he was hired.

According to the Statement of the Offense released by the district court in D.C., Moore never earned a bachelor’s degree, and claimed a B.Sc. that had in fact been earned by another individual to gain acceptance to master’s and Ph.D. programs at Claremont Graduate University and Howard University, respectively.

The College’s opposition to Moore’s request for a preliminary injunction states that “as a visiting assistant professor, Moore held a position of trust and confidence with the College. Like all faculty members, he was to serve as a role model to the College’s students, to help shape their thoughts and influence their actions.”

The Statement emphasizes that much of Moore’s admitted fraudulent activity and history of deceit, even that which did not take place during the period in which he was an employee of the College, occurred in the sphere of academics, contributing to the College’s conclusion to terminate his employment. Assistant to the President for Public Affairs Jim Kolesar added that “the culture of openness and honesty embedded in the College’s written Code of Conduct requires its employees to report even the suspicion, let alone the admission, of having committed a felony.”

Moore failed to notify the College of his decision to plead guilty to fraud charges, either at the time of signing the plea agreement or upon leaving for D.C. to plead guilty in open court. The College was first confronted with the news of this admission in The Washington Post last Nov. 10.

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