Did the administration let White off the hook?

Raelayna Alvarez

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While Associated Students (A.S.) President elect, Kory White would rather forget her past conviction for theft; the victim, Ed Martinez, cannot put the incident behind him just yet.
“Do you know how I can get my money back?” Martinez asked when he returned The Oak Leaf’s call.
As part of her probation, White was required to pay $845 restitution for the amount she charged to Martinez’s credit card account in April 2001. According to Martinez, White still hasn’t paid.
“If she wants to put this behind her, she could pay me back,” he said.
But the $845 is not the only thing Martinez lost as a result of White and her actions. “I was so embarrassed from being tricked by Kory, and then basically ignored by the college when I needed help, I decided to move to Nevada and start over.” He said
When Martinez was told White had been elected A.S. President, he was shocked. “I can’t believe the college would let her continue being active after what happened… I don’t think she has changed, and she shouldn’t be involved with the community. She might take advantage of someone else,” he said.
A Santa Rosa resident for 23 years, Martinez, suffers from post-concussion syndrome, which has given him memory and cognitive problems since his accident in 1997. Martinez came to the SRJC through the Disability Resources Department in 1999 and soon found a club that interested him: the Acquired Brain Injured Students (ABIS).
“I enjoyed the support the ABIS club gave me,” he said. “It was nice to be with others who share my disability and could understand what I was going through.”
Because of his affection for the club, Martinez consented to let his credit card be used to start an ABIS website in 2000, understanding he would be reimbursed for all charges. It did not become an issue until July 2001, when he found something alarming in the mail: an out-of-stock notice from a company he never heard of called Big Dogs.
“I looked on the bill and saw my credit card number with Kory White’s name on it,” said Martinez.
According to Sue Hultberg, president of the Brain Injury Network of Sonoma County Inc. and Martinez’s advocate, “She nibbled at his account, but got more and more bold over time… She started using his name and card number with her address, but by the time Ed cancelled the card, she was using his card with her name and address.”
Martinez claims he would have filed a formal grievance in 2002 if he had known how. It wasn’t until he met Hultberg that he was able to receive the help he needed.
According to Hultberg, the first thing she did was notify the college about what had happened, as it involved a disabled student being taken advantage of through a club function. Shortly after the college was notified, Holtburg says Terri Frongia, dean of General Education, called Martinez and asked if he had any proof of the matter. When Martinez said that he did, the college never contacted him again.
In July 2002, Hultberg sent a letter – including Martinez’s credit card transaction report and the company invoices with White’s name using his credit card number – to Robert Agrella, president of the college, Frongia, and the Board of Trustees.
“I did everything I could to show them that White had done something terrible,” said Hultburg. “But even though the college had proof of what happened, White was able to continue serving as president of the ABIS and handle money as if nothing happened.”
When asked whether the college was liable for what had taken place, Ricardo Navarrette, vice president of Student Services, said the college generally is liable for college club activities, but only if the activity was “directly approved and undertaken by the club… This does not include the conduct of individuals who belong to or represent a club.” Navarrette said that while things may be done on behalf of a club, the college is not necessarily responsible for what happens during that activity.
“The college was responsible because they should have made sure that there was someone monitoring the ABIS club,” said Hultburg.” This is a vulnerable group of students and I can only hope that more students aren’t being taken advantage of… but given what the college has done to brush aside the incident with Kory White, there is no way to know.”
In March 2003, the Sheriff’s department took Martinez’s case and started an investigation.
Hultberg said that when police confronted White, she claimed she destroyed the card and the charges were the work of a hacker. When additional evidence was found, including White’s name on a return slip, she told investigators that she and Martinez were dating, and he let her use the card. Martinez says the two were never romantically linked.
White was convicted for misdemeanor grand theft in September 04, right before the “Kory White Inspiration Award” was to be given out at the annual Brain Injury Conference. The college was told of the conviction and immediately withdrew the award, replacing it with “Brain Injury Student of the Year.”
White was not allowed to attend the conference, as one of the provisions of her probation is she is not to associate with brain damaged patients.
Since the conviction, White has not been directly involved with the ABIS club. However, Hultburg said that at least one other ABIS club member told her they were taken advantage of by White, but did step forward for a lack of evidence. “Even if another student had transaction reports to prove their case, they would not do anything because Kory is a respected figure on campus and they’re afraid of what would happen,” she said.
Hultburg believes the college could have been sued for negligence for not keeping White away from the ABIS when they knew she was a threat. “The college did nothing to rein her in when they had proof of what happened… That is what’s really disturbing,” she said.
When asked about Sue Hultberg’s attempt to have the college take action against her, White dismissed it as an attempt by Hultburg to subvert the ABIS organization. “She has been trying to take down the ABIS since the club was started,” said White. “She never wanted the club to exist at all.”
While Ed Martinez is adamant that the JC administration should have done more to help him, he did not want to pursue legal action.
“I think it should be made easier for disabled people to go through the grievance process,” she says, “as there is no complaint process for disabled students to help them follow through on things. All we want is to see tougher standards for those who have grievances filed against them. We just don’t want someone else getting hurt.”

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