University suit: state school hurt image

Oct. 5, 2010 at 12:09 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- For-profit Keiser University filed suit against the president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, accusing him of harming Keiser's reputation.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Broward County by Keiser University of Jacksonville, alleges FSCJ President Steven Wallace and Vice President of Government Relations Susan Lehr exchanged harmful e-mails with representatives of The Institute for College Access and Success, a national organization that lobbies for tighter regulations on for-profit schools.

"All right, my friend. Here is a bunch of good stuff to get you started in your exploration of greed, corruption and predatory schemes among Florida's proprietary and for-profit career 'colleges.' The new technical college we will launch on 8/1/09 is designed, in part, to drive the sleazebags out of our region," allegedly read an e-mail from Wallace to Gilchrist Berg, a Wall Street seller who founded a multibillion-dollar Jacksonville-based hedge-fund firm.

The lawsuit alleges Lehr "tailored a Florida State College press release," which spoke of the "subpriming of students" and was distributed to various news outlets.

The negative publicity has lowered student enrollment and financially harmed the company, Keiser officials said.

The suit seeks an undisclosed amount in damages.

The Jacksonville Times-Union said it is not clear whether this is the first time a for-profit school has sued a state-funded institution.

"My hope is other proprietary schools take action if this is going on elsewhere. There is no place in this country for the government schools to operate in such a manner to harm private businesses," James Waldman, Keiser's general counsel, said.

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