Lawsuit alleges LMU dean abused school funds for dating and pornography

By Gary Walker

An ex-assistant to former Loyola Marymount University School of Education Dean Shane Martin, whose leadership tenure included launching the celebrated LMU Family of Schools collaborative, has filed a lawsuit against Martin and LMU alleging that she was fired because she refused to participate in federal financial aid fraud or conceal spending university funds on pornography and expensive meals.

Attorneys for Mary Navia, who worked as Martin’s administrative specialist from June 2017 to February 2018, filed her whistleblower complaint on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Martin, who left LMU in June 2018 to become provost of Seattle University, vowed to clear his name.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny these false and outrageous allegations of wrongdoing against me. I stand by my record of service and leadership at Loyola Marymount University. I intend to vigorously defend my honor and integrity. I will have no further public comment at this time,” Martin wrote Tuesday in an email to The Argonaut.

LMU officials have been silent, with a spokesperson state that it is university policy not to comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.

Martin spent decades at LMU, first as an undergraduate student in the late 1970s, then as a doctoral student and faculty member starting in the ‘90s. He served as dean of the education school from 2005 to 2012 and as dean of graduate studies from 2012 until his departure. He also served as chairman of the board of directors for Green Dot Public Schools.

The LMU Family of Schools has grown since its 2006 launch in partnership with LAUSD to include 14 public and private elementary, middle and high schools in Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista.

According to the lawsuit, Martin’s previous assistant had warned Navia that Martin needed to be “cared for” at all times: “Plaintiff soon learned that ‘caring for’ meant intentionally breaking LMU polices, federal [law], and state law to further his personal interests and ensure that he did not get caught. These personal interests included but were not limited to extravagant meals, first class flights, gay porn, financial favors to Martin’s personal friends and late night dates with LMU funds. Even more egregious, Martin threatened plaintiff’s employment if she did not participate in his fraudulent schemes,” states the complaint filed on Navia’s behalf by the firms Valiant Law and West Coast Trial Lawyers.

The complaint alleges that Martin instructed others to enroll and then drop classes to obtain federal financial aid, that Navia was asked to continue an apparently ongoing practice of creating phony guest names to cover up excessive meal expenditures, and that Navia’s superiors ignored her repeated complaints about such behavior — one telling her that porno-graphy was “an educational expense.”

“It’s quite astounding that a private, Catholic university would ignore this type of conduct and embezzlement right under their noses. We have indications that they were aware of it and accelerated [Martin’s] departure from LMU rather than address this affirmatively. That’s something that we’re going to explore in discovery,” said H. Dean Aynechi, an attorney with West Coast Trial Lawyers.

“Unfortunately the type of working conditions and fraudulent behavior committed by Martin left [Navia] no choice but to bring the lawsuit,” said Kamran Shahabi, a partner with Valiant Law.