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State settles racial discrimination case

Updated Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 | 3:41 p.m.

The state Board of Examiners has approved a $105,000 settlement for a Las Vegas woman who alleged she was fired from the College of Southern Nevada because of racial discrimination.

Debra Lopez, an African American, originally sought $800,000 after her termination in January 2007.

Nancy Bowman, in charge of the state’s Victims of Crime Program, told the board Tuesday that Lopez’s immediate supervisor has died and two other college officials now lived out of state.

She said there was a potential judgment of $500,000 if the case went to trial, so it was cost effective to settle.

Lopez was director of diversity programs at the college and alleged she was fired because of her race and retaliation for working with disabled students, Bowman said.

Lopez's attorney Daniel Marks said his client was happy the settlement was approved.

"(The settlement) vindicates Debra's six-year battle with CSN, compensates her for her loss and, more importantly, allows her to move forward with her career," Marks said.

In 2006, Lopez filed a whistleblower complaint alleging CSN fired her in retaliation for disclosing alleged misconduct by college employees. The alleged abuses of power included unfair hiring, discrimination against minority contractors in the college's bidding process and racism and harassment in the facilities division.

After Lopez's disclosures, Bob Gilbert – a former CSN associate vice president – was indicted by a Clark County grand jury on charges of stealing college resources to help build his private home. He was sentenced to prison in 2011 for a term of 1 to 4 years.

The State Personnel Commission dismissed Lopez's whistleblower case in 2008. However in 2010, the state's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in favor of Lopez, which paved the way for her settlement case.

K.C. Brekken, communications director at CSN, released a statement on behalf of the college: "CSN has successfully argued against Debra Lopez’ allegations in court and other public arenas for many years. At this time, and with the majority of supervisors named no longer at CSN, the college recognizes that a resolution is in everyone’s best interest."

Sun reporter Paul Takahashi contributed to this story.

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