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South Coast university responds to lawsuit by former congressman over management of educational center created in his name

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KCLU News Photo
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Longtime South Coast Congressman Elton Gallegly has filed a lawsuit against California Lutheran University over its management of a public affairs center on campus bearing his name. The university is now answering the claims, saying it has met its obligations.

Cal Lutheran officials say they've lived up to all of the requirements of the gift in letter and in spirit.

A South Coast university is now responding to a lawsuit by a former congressman in the region, in which he claimed the college failed to live up to promises it made in opening up a center in his name.

The dispute involves former Republican Congressman Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley. In 2018, California Lutheran University opened the Gallegly Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement on campus, to serve as a home for his papers, and a resource to prepare students for public service.

In November, Gallegly sued, claiming Cal Lutheran didn’t live up to its promises. One concern is the university plans to remove a replica of his office from the center, which is part of the university’s library building.

"We've been, at our discretion, putting the full display up, and we've done that for the last three years," said Cal Lutheran President Lori Varlotta. "Now that we have the archive collection, there's 500 cartons of books, belongings, and memorabilia, etc, and the only place we can make that accessible is in the alcove of the Gallegly Center itself."

The university has offered to store it, or move it at the university's expense.

The suit raises issues about the accounting of donations to the Center. Varlotta says the university has received clean independent audits of all of its donor funds.

And, she says a promised distinguished series, derailed by the pandemic, will resume when it is safe.

The university's president says perhaps the center’s most important accomplishment is educational and financial support for 11 fellows.

"We have 11 fellows, Reagan/Gallegly Fellows, and all 11 of those fellows have received substantial financial scholarships, and they get to study in the Masters Program for Public Policy and Administration," said Varlotta.

Cal Lutheran is the parent of KCLU Radio.