Pro Boner

Auraria's effort to offer students "free" legal services cost plenty and ended badly.

A month after his interviews with MSCD officials, Rataj notified them that he was resigning his position " based solely and exclusively upon personal reasons."

In a statement supplied to Westword, Rataj defended his "exemplary record" in managing the legal services office, which resulted in outstanding performance evaluations and several diversity awards. He insisted that investigators had not only cleared him of the allegations of discrimination, but had found that Ott and Safford had "in bad faith misrepresented material facts." He also noted that the office had been facing serious budget problems throughout his tenure there.

"The question I tender for your consideration," Rataj wrote, "is, are these students victims, as they claim, or victimizers trying to create a media controversy for their own personal gain?"

Ott and Safford say they've been damaged by the college's decision to pull the plug on the legal-services program, damages that extend from lost wages to lost opportunities for professional development to emotional and psychological harm. They've hired an attorney and have notified MSCD officials of their intent to sue for failing to protect them as whistle-blowers.

MSCD's Lucas denies that the claim has any basis. "There's been no retribution," she says. "The office was closed because we couldn't provide the same quality of service as before."

"They were just waiting for us to go away," Safford says. "But we're not going away."

Not, at least, until after their graduation next year. After that, Safford says, he and his wife plan to go to law school.

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