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Former Dean Sues Chapman Over Her Dismissal;
Says Stress Was Such That She Tried to Kill Herself

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP), Sept. 2, 2004 - A former dean sued Chapman University over her dismissal, claiming the stress of trying to improve the university's law school took such a toll on her mental health that she tried to kill herself.

Joanne Telerico's wrongful termination lawsuit filed Aug. 26 in Orange County Superior Court said she was hired to help recruit high-caliber students and improve bar exam results for the school's graduates.

When she eventually told university officials that job stress was causing her psychological problems, they let her go, the suit said. Telerico, 56, is seeking unspecified damages.

Chapman officials declined comment, saying the university hadn't been served with a copy of the lawsuit.

Telerico attorney Grace E. Emery said the lawsuit was filed after negotiations with the university over a severance package broke down.

Hired in 1998, Telerico was in charge of admissions, marketing and recruitment at a time when Chapman's law school suffered from dwindling enrollment, unsatisfactory bar results and lawsuits filed by students when the school failed to win American Bar Association accreditation.

Her annual salary began at $82,000 and rose to $115,000.

She suffered an emotional breakdown on June 14, 2002, which led to her involuntary commitment for attempted suicide, Telerico claims in the suit without elaboration. In November 2002, the suit said Telerico sought permission from law school dean Parham Williams to take a leave, but was afraid to say why.

University officials persuaded her to stay on the job, allowing her to work for six months from Alabama, where she lived with friends. But after five months, Williams ordered her back to the campus in Orange, the suit said.

Telerico expressed regret at the university's alleged failure to accommodate her and offered her resignation effective Aug. 31, 2003.