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What you need to know for 09/26/2017

Ex-SCCC computing director contests firing

Ex-SCCC computing director contests firing

Allegations that the then-director of academic computing at Schenectady County Community College sex
Ex-SCCC computing director contests firing
Students arrive for the first day of classes for the 2015 fall semester at Schenectady Community College on Thursday, September 3, 2015.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

Allegations that the then-director of academic computing at Schenectady County Community College sexually harassed a student in January led to his termination in April, according to a new court filing.

The information comes in a court petition filed by Nicholas Ltaif alleging that the college’s investigation into the complaint was incomplete, inadequate and one-sided. He also alleges that the decision to terminate him was arbitrary and capricious.

The petition was filed recently in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County. Ltaif, who had served as the college’s academic computing director since January 2007, had worked at the college since 1988.

The investigation that led to his dismissal stemmed from a series of alleged incidents in January related to a female student.

The 18-year-old student alleged that she was alone with Ltaif in one of his Van Vranken Avenue rental apartments when he gave her alcohol and tried to give her a massage, leaving her feeling pressured and uncomfortable. Ltaif denied the allegations.

A report issued by a designated affirmative action officer for the college largely credited the student’s account, and found that Ltaif did sexually harass the student and created a hostile atmosphere for her. Ltaif’s petition contends the report was one-sided.

Ltaif was terminated and his subsequent attempt to retire was rejected.

College, county named

Ltaif’s court filing, officially called an Article 78, seeks to have the termination decision set aside, claiming it was in violation of rules and procedures. He is also seeking to reverse the decision to deny his retirement application.

Ltaif is represented by attorneys Joseph Dougherty and Brian R. Hodgdon of Albany. A call to their office last week was not returned.

Named as defendants in the suit are the college, Schenectady County and then-acting college president Martha Asselin.

The college issued this statement last week when asked about the suit: “Schenectady County Community College places the highest priority on creating a safe, secure and fair environment in which to work or study, and ensuring that commitment is met for our students, faculty and staff is of utmost importance. We are presently in the process of reviewing the complaint in question, and we plan to respond in due course.”

According to the college’s investigative report, the student alleged a series of three incidents from Jan. 13 to Jan. 22.

In the final alleged incident, Ltaif gave her alcohol and tried to give her a massage. She contended that he also tried to get her to massage him.

“Believing it was the only way she could get out of there, she started to massage his leg,” the investigator’s account of her allegations reads. “She said she was praying to God to get her out of this situation, when suddenly his cellphone rang.”

She soon left the apartment with Ltaif, but not before she alleged Ltaif tried to get her to dance with him.

Ltaif contended to the investigator that the apartment visit lasted five minutes, and that she wanted him to show her apartments.

The college’s investigator found the student’s versions more credible.

Ltaif contends in his petition that the investigator denied allowing him union or attorney representation during his interrogation, that he provided nine witnesses that corroborated his account or discredited the student and that the investigator only interviewed three of those.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, scook@dailygazette.net or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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