Originally posted at 6 p.m. July 19, 2013
Two months after suing state agencies and officials for $21 million, the co-founder of Carlsbad’s Aristotle University says private school regulators have dropped their closure order.
Xanthi Gionis, the shuttered school’s former co-owner, filed an amended lawsuit in Sacramento federal court Thursday that declares the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has “withdrawn all disciplinary actions.”
On June 21, the BPPE officially withdrew its action ordering the school to immediately cease operations and pay a $50,000 fine, “which could have increased to a half a million dollars or more,” Gionis said Friday via email.
Russ Heimerich—a spokesman for the agency as well as one of many defendants in the suit—said Friday that “she’s partly right.”
He said the citation and abatement order of May 2, which included the fine for operating without bureau approval, was withdrawn for a “technical reason” he couldn’t immediately specify.
But he said another citation is forthcoming.
“Stay tuned,” he said in a phone interview. “We haven’t dropped anything. There will be more from us.”
Contacted by phone Friday, Gionis said there’s been “zero investigation” of her former school. “If I was in their shoes, I’d be looking for a way out (too).”
Asked later whether the school could reopen, Gionis said: “Unfortunately, I cannot comment on that at this time.”
In a 23-page amended complaint, San Francisco-based attorney Keith Oliver repeated that Gionis’ damages are “substantial and irreparable.”
“While the actions of the state and its public officials were clearly improper, the bureau has at least taken the first step to repair the damage done to Ms. Gionis and Aristotle University,” Oliver said in a statement. “It would be prudently appropriate for the other parties involved in this case to do the same.”
Gionis is continuing to sue state officials, state Sen. Mark Wyland of Carlsbad (said to have called Aristotle a “diploma mill”) and a nurse who claims to have taught at Aristotle’s School of Public Health.
In fact, Gionis won a three-year civil harassment restraining order against the nurse, Karin Tausan, whose behavior was “beyond outrageous” and included false allegations against her and frightening contacts with her family, Gionis said in a phone interview.
And Tausan never taught at Aristotle, Gionis said.
Now living in San Carlos near the north end of Lake Murray, the former Chula Vistan is fighting to regain her reputation after dealing with bad press while running as a Republican for state Senate seat in the South Bay.
In early February, Gionis held a press conference outside San Diego City Hall to rebut allegations about Aristotle University that she called “horrifically false” and “politically motivated.”
She responded to an NBC San Diego report that found the university—which operated at times at 6185 Paseo Del Norte and 701 Palomar Airport Road—wasn’t certified with the state and lacked a city business license.
She slammed what she called “reckless reporting" by NBC San Diego, which she called “an alleged investigative report that is full of erroneous, easily verifiable information.”
In its May 2 citation, the former chief enforcement official for the state agency, Connie Bouvia, said: “You must also refund all monies (tuition and fees) to all students that were enrolled at Aristotle University after Jan. 1, 2010.”
Bouvia ordered Gionis to provide a list of those students, contact information and tuition they either paid or were refunded.
But Gionis said she had a conversation with Bouvia in which the agency enforcement chief conceded that Aristotle was licensed to operate through April 2015.
“She [Bouvia] admitted it and said she would work something out for me—those were her exact words,” Gionis told Patch.
Bouvia later left the agency and now works for the Contractors State License Board, according to her LinkedIn profile.