Cuesta College staffers accused of illegal activity, retaliation

April 7, 2024


A former Cuesta College employee is suing the college and mutiple staffers alleging that after he reported illegal activity, he and his family faced retaliation, according to a lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.

After allegedly discovering the misappropriation of public resources, in 2021, a five-year general maintenance worker at Cuesta College, Andrew Kranes, lodged a complaint with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. He described employees stealing gas and having their and their spouses personal cars repaired and maintained at the campus auto repair shop at taxpayer’s expense.

The suit exposes a perceived web of nepotism at the campus with Kranes’ former supervisor Robert Richerson married to the vice president of human resources Melissa Richerson; Cuesta College President Jill Stearns married to the head of information technology Keith Stearns; and general maintenance employee Preston Federico married to human resources employee Stephanie Federico.

Kranes filed the lawsuit late last year against Cuesta College, President Jill Sterns, Robert Richerson, Melissa Richerson, Preston Federico, Daniel Troy, Elizabeth Coria and Brian McAlister. The lawsuit alleges the defendants stalked, harassed and or covered up criminal behavior.

The suit describes mutiple incidents of alleged theft of public resources, which the suit says witnesses will corroborate.

“Plaintiff had witnessed Cuesta’s shop mechanic, using Cuesta parts and tools, repair personal vehicles of Human Resources employee, Stephanie Federico, whose spouse is defendant Federico,” according to the lawsuit. “Defendant Richerson had asked plaintiff in the past if he would like to have his vehicle repaired for an engine gasket issue plaintiff had mentioned; plaintiff declined.”

Following Kranes’ report to the SLO County District Attorney’s Office, their were allegedly mutiple attempts to retaliate against Kranes and his family, including Cuesta College staffers following his wife and children around with a camera.

“California law protects individuals from illegal discrimination and retaliation by employers based on a number of categories, including marital status,” according to the lawsuit. “Cuesta chose to not only retaliate against plaintiff but chose to punish another individual who is associated with the protected employee, in this case, plaintiff’s spouse and by extension, his two minor children.”

In mid-2022, the district attorney’s office concluded its investigation, allegedly because of a lack of cooperation from Cuesta College.

“On May 12, 2022, plaintiff and DA Investigator Eric Vitale exchanged emails regarding the DA’s investigation being concluded,” according to the lawsuit. “Mr. Vitale told Plaintiff that he never received the report from the college president, Defendant Stearns, and was unable to finish the report.”

The suit seeks general, special and exemplary damages along with court costs and attorney fees. A case management conference is scheduled for April 15.


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If they are guilty, I hope they drop the hammer down hard. They continue to pass bond measures to raise our taxes and enough sheep fall for and pass it?

They charge as much as they can to go there. Why do homeowners who will never have anything to do with that lame school have to pay? SMH.

I commend the courage of the plaintiff. This is no easy task!

Corruption is becoming far too common in SLO County. Keep outing these criminals by exposing their crimes and we may be able to take our communities back.

For years, Cuesta College has been run like a piggybank by the bureaucratic elites, and it’s a shame that taxpayers are being fleeced like they are. Cuesta College President Jill Stearns out to be deeply ashamed of herself, and I have no doubt that the allegations made in this lawsuit have merit.

Vot NO on Cuesta’s next bond measure.

It’s probably where all our Bond money goes.

I believe the plaintiff & admire him for speaking up.

Anyone surprised?…