Fresno State

Fresno State, former athletic director reach settlement on wrongful termination claim

Former Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko and the university have reached a mutual settlement to a wrongful termination claim filed last June.

The university essentially fulfilled its obligation for the remainder of Bartko’s employment contract term, said Patti Waid, the university’s director of communications. Bartko when he left Fresno State was toward the end of the third year of a five-year contract worth $290,000 a year. The settlement was handled through the California State University risk management authority, its self-insurance program.

In a 13-page claim that was filed with the CSU chancellor’s office, Bartko sought $3 million in damages for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation and breach of contract.

Former Fresno State athletics director Jim Bartko has landed back at the University of Oregon, where he spent more than 20 years in college athletics. Bartko resigned from Fresno State on Nov. 6, 2017, citing personal reasons, but in June filed an administrative claim saying that he was forced out. CRAIG KOHLRUSS Fresno Bee file

In the claim, Bartko alleged university president Joseph I. Castro and high-ranking administrators orchestrated a “smear campaign” that led to his resignation. The university, its athletic corporation, Castro, vice president for administration and chief financial officer Debbie Adishian-Astone and then-interim athletics director Steve Robertello were named as parties in the claim.

Elizabeth K. Dunn, who represented Bartko in the case, could not be reached for comment.

In January 2017, after receiving treatment at Sierra Tucson, Bartko revealed in an interview with The Bee that he had been molested by a Catholic priest when a child. He went through a second period of treatment that July.

In the claim, Bartko also said that he suffered retaliation and discrimination on the basis of his mental disability/mental condition and that the university also failed to accommodate his disability. It also details and debunks concerns Castro had regarding Bartko’s job performance, including expense reimbursements and supporting documentation

In February, Castro was critical of contract negotiations when hiring football coach Jeff Tedford and also how Bartko communicated his leave and stay at Sierra Tucson, stating that he had received unclear and contradictory information.

In March, Castro and Astone addressed concerns that Batrko had been seen drinking alcoholic beverages at business-related lunches or when working on behalf of the university, and had unpaid dues at the San Joaquin Country Club.

Bartko in July was put on a performance improvement plan, which he claimed was a pretextual act of discrimination and/or retaliation.

And on Nov. 6, he went to a meeting with Castro and Astone at which he was told that he could be fired for cause or resign and receive a minimal severance.

The university when the claim was filed in June 2018 cited the agreement that Bartko had signed and that he had received severance of $75,000.

Bartko in the claim alleges that he was not given time to fully read the resignation documents presented to him or review his options, but under duress signed a brief statement of resignation and a settlement agreement and release that included a waiver “of any right (he) may have under law or regulation to seek reconsideration or to revoke his resignation.”

The release and waiver, he claimed, were invalid and unenforceable as a matter of law.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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