Former Cal Poly engineering dean suing school

Correction: The article below alleges Roger Freberg wrote a blog entitled “Cal Poly Training Tomorrow’s Terrorists.” On Freberg’s website, the article is entitled “Cal Polytraining tomorrow’s terrorists?”

The former dean of Cal Poly’s College of Engineering has filed a lawsuit against several defendants, including Cal Poly, claiming they defamed him as well as played roles in his wrongful termination.

Mohammad Noori — who helped coordinate the university’s aborted effort to develop a partnership between Cal Poly and a new Saudi Arabian university — filed the lawsuit earlier this month in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The suit names the following defendants: the California State University Board of Trustees, Cal Poly, Cal Poly Provost Bob Koob, Cal Poly engineering professor Unny Menon, blogger Roger Freberg and Karen Velie, a reporter for online news site Cal Coast News.

Cal Poly and Cal State University public relations officials, speaking on behalf of Koob as well, declined to comment about the case Tuesday, saying they won’t discuss pending litigation.

Menon and Freberg didn’t return calls for comment. Velie said that her article was well sourced and that nothing in the lawsuit claims the reporting was inaccurate.

“I don’t think you can (successfully) sue a journalist for getting the facts first,” Velie said. “He never said anything I wrote was a lie.”

Noori, a 57-year-old Iranian-American Muslim who legally immigrated to the United States in 1971, alleges seven causes of action against both Cal Poly and the CSU board. Those include retaliation for making complaints of discrimination, as well as racial and religious discrimination.

He alleges five additional causes of action against all of the defendants relating to his employment at Cal Poly, which include wrongful termination in violation with California public policy and defamation.

The university announced Noori’s transition from dean to a faculty position in the College of Engineering in June, and named Erling Smith the new acting dean of the college. Noori had served as engineering dean at Cal Poly for four years.

In Noori’s allegations, he claims that Freberg, who writes an online blog, and Velie wrote defamatory articles that appeared on their respective websites.

Those include a blog post on Freberg’s site entitled “Cal Poly Training Tomorrow’s Terrorists” that allegedly shows Osama Bin Laden’s head portrayed on Noori’s body.

The suit also alleges that Velie posted an article on her website entitled “Cal Poly’s Controversial Dean of Engineering Dismissed” before any official decision had been made.

The article cited an anonymous Cal Poly dean informing the school’s mechanical engineering chair that Noori was “out as engineering dean,” Noori alleged.

“Koob promised that their conversation would remain confidential until (Noori) got a chance to meet and discuss the nonrenewal” of his contract with Koob and former Cal Poly President Warren Baker, the suit alleges.

Noori also claimed that his university e-mail account had been hacked and that an e-mail using his address was sent out to all faculty and staff saying that Noori had sold his “soul to the devil Saudi Arabia.” Noori’s complaints to the president’s office about the matter went ignored, the suit claims.

Menon is alleged to have written a letter with four other senior faculty members, containing alleged defamatory accusations, that called for Noori’s removal as dean, according to the suit. University administrators never condemned the accusations, according to the suit.

A court date is pending.