The district attorney case against UCLA political science professor Michael Lofchie, regarding a conflict of interest in the hiring of an employee, was dismissed last month after a judge ruled that University of California educators were exempt from the government code in question.
In Feb. 2012, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed a complaint against Lofchie for an alleged conflict of interest during his tenure as the chair of the UCLA political science department in 2008.
During that time, Lofchie’s wife was hired to work for the university’s political science summer travel study program and was paid $3,100 in 2008, according to court documents.
Because married couples have legal access to 50 percent of their spouse’s income, the district attorney alleged that Lofchie’s approval of his wife’s hiring was a conflict of interest that violates a California government code. The code states that certain government officials cannot financially benefit from the hiring of any employee.
On March 18, the case was dismissed because the judge ruled the California government code Lofchie allegedly violated does not apply to employees of the University of California, according to court documents.
The district attorney argued that UC employees are also state employees and should have to comply with the government code. But the court concluded that there is a legal precedent for regarding the UC as a self-governed institution that operates “as independently of the state as possible.” Under this precedent, the UC is only subject to legislation if it does not involve internal university workings.
The UC has its own policy that allows employees’ spouses to be hired, as long as that employee is not involved in the hiring process, according to Daily Bruin archives. But the university contended that Lofchie’s wife was hired through the summer sessions program and Lofchie was not directly involved in the process, even though he was the chair of the political science department at the time.
“The court’s dismissal of the charge against Lofchie vindicates his innocence,” said Gary Lincenberg, Lofchie’s lawyer, in an email statement.
Though the case has been dismissed, the district attorney’s office can file an appeal, said UCLA Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs Kevin Reed.
There will be no new measures taken by the university, and Lofchie will continue his work at UCLA, Reed said.