Home Breaking News Cuesta College whistleblower case has reached a settlement

Cuesta College whistleblower case has reached a settlement

Cuesta College's welcome sign located at the main campus entry. Photo by Sawyer Thomas
Cuesta College recently settled a whistleblower lawsuit that included allegations of nepotism and cronyism. Photo by Sawyer Thomas

The case against Cuesta College and ex-school employee Andrew Krane has reached a hefty $70,000 agreement.

After nearly a year of negotiations, Cuesta College will pay just over a year’s worth of Krane’s annual salary. The lawsuit was brought on by Krane after allegations that some Cuesta employees stole gas and had their personal vehicles repaired by the Cuesta Auto Repair Center at the taxpayer’s expense.

Krane claims that, initially, he was scared to report the abuse by school employees because he feared that he would lose his CalPERS retirement if he made a complaint. The official report was filed on January 3, 2022.

Krane has been a general maintenance worker for Cuesta College since October 2016. Kranes’ annual salary excluding benefits per year was approximately $77,000. His last day of employment was April 10, 2024, a day before the lawsuit was settled. 

According to lawsuit documents, Andrew Krane alleged that his supervisors and co-workers harassed him and his family to the point that he became depressed. He also stated that his wife suffered panic attacks and his children developed night terrors, and a phobia of public restrooms.

Videos circulating social media show an alleged Cuesta employee filming Kranes’s wife using his cell phone to harass her and her children. The owner of these videos could not be reached for comment at the time of this publication.

The article claims that Cuesta College was also under fire for insinuated nepotism. The lawsuit claims that Kranes’ former supervisor, Robert Richerson, is married to the vice president of human resources Melissa Richerson. Cuesta College President Jill Stearns is married to the head of information technology Keith Stearns; and general maintenance employee Preston Federico is married to human resources employee Stephanie Federico. 

According to the California Department of Human Resources, nepotism is when an employee uses the employee’s influence or power to hire, transfer, or promote an applicant or employee because of a personal relationship, which is contrary to the merit-based civil service system, and therefore is prohibited in the state workplace.

The lawsuit pertains to a legal case Krane brought forth against Cuesta College nearly two years ago in which President Jill Sterns, Robert Richerson, Melissa Richerson, Preston Federico, Daniel Troy, Elizabeth Coria, and Brian McAlister were all named. The lawsuit alleges the defendants stalked, harassed, and/or covered up criminal behavior.

It was also reported that a plaintiff named in Kranes’ lawsuit made repulsive remarks towards Kranes’ wife.

“However, he reiterated that her husband needed to ‘teach that [sic] some manners,'” the lawsuit stated, as reported by New Times.

Adding to the intrigue of the case is the fact that when Kranes went to San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow to file the whistleblower charges, the D.A. didn’t pursue the case despite a lack of correspondence from Cuesta’s administration when asked to address the allegations. Dow’s lack of action is what resulted in the ensuing lawsuit.

What steps can we as students take to push past the speculation and possible tarnished image of Cuesta College? Continue to focus on what is important: Your education.

Students depend on the Cuesta staff to lead by example. Our education is something we take very seriously.  This lawsuit does affect the college’s reputation. As students, we have the right to demand clarification from the school board and to share our concerns regarding this staff.

Having previously worked as a recruiter with an HR background for over 16 years, I strongly believe that employee ethics play a vital role in any organization. When Cuesta College hires employees, we entrust them with representing our school and our values. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully choose individuals who align with Cuesta’s ethical standards.

The recent lawsuit raises issues about whether the employees in question were the right fit for Cuesta, and whether they accurately represented our values. As a result, we must examine the lessons that can be learned from this situation and take appropriate steps to ensure that Cuesta’s hiring and training processes prioritize ethical behavior and align with the school’s organizational values.

Editors’ Note: We are a student publication, and all editorial decisions made are by the students. The Editor-in-Chief, In-House Editor and Opinion Editor of our award-winning publication all contributed to the publishing of this editorial. While we fully understand this is a very sensitive subject matter, we couldn’t ignore a story of this magnitude and hope this leads to a positive outcome for the students of our college.


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