Resignation letter was submitted just one day before possible Regents’ action

UC Davis Professor Philip W. Signor, faced with the possibility of becoming only the second tenured faculty member in the University of California’s 125-year history to be fired, resigned one day before the school’s Board of Regents was to consider the case, The Bee learned Friday.

“I don’t know all the gory details, but I do understand that what you’re saying about the (university) process is true,” said Sacramento attorney William Poe, who is defending Signor against allegations of sexual and academic harassment in a federal lawsuit filed by UCD graduate student Donna Hunt.

Neither Signor, who reportedly is in New Mexico, nor his attorney in the university’s administrative proceeding growing out of Hunt’s accusations, Nancy B. Reardan, could be reached for comment Friday.

“It’s obvious to me he know he was to be fired the next day, so he resigned, said Hunt’s attorney, Dan Siegel. “He fought to keep his job, we know that, and delay the prosecution of Donna Hunt’s case against him. What other reason could there be?

Harvey Himelfarb, acting vice provost for faculty relations at UCD, confirmed that, in a letter submitted September 21, Signor resigned effective December 31.

Neither the letter nor a conversation he had with Signor offered insight into the geology professor’s reasons for resigning, Himelfarb said.

The letter gives no reason, and all Signor said in the conversation was that he was considering the move “in order to pursue other interests,” Himelfarb recalled.

Hunt, 32, whose accusations have plagued Signor for four years, echoed her attorney’s sentiment that “it’s obvious he resigned to avoid disciplinary action.”

Himelfarb acknowledged that “the university was pursuing an administrative matter regarding Professor Signor,” but would not discuss it except to say that the resignation lays it to rest.

“This effectively ends our connection” to Signor, he said.

Two highly placed university sources, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Bee that a UCD faculty committee reviewed Hunt’s complaints last spring, then recommended to the chancellor that Signor be dismissed. That recommendation was forwarded intact to the UC president and then to The Regents, who had the matter on their September 22 agenda, the sources said.

UC spokesman Tom Debley said personnel matters are deliberated by The Regents in closed session. Disciplinary actions then are made public, he said.

The Regents met on September 22, Debley said, but no action on Signor was announced.

“It sounds like the letter came just before that,” he said. “It sounds like you’re drawing a reasonable inference.”

Himelfarb said his talk with Signor preceded the resignation letter. “He contacted me to pursue the potentiality of resigning. I confirmed that was a possibility, and, if tendered, the university would accept it,” Himelfarb said.

Signor did not mention Hunt’s pending lawsuit, but the university’s administrative proceeding did come up, although he didn’t indicate it as a motivating factor, Himelfarb said.

“He did not tell me what his thinking and reasonings were.”

Asked if a final resolution of the administrative matter was looming, Himelfarb said, “I’m afraid I can’t comment on that at all.”

Hunt described the development as “very frustrating, an anti-climax.”

“This is a serious matter,” Hunt said. “At some level the university has a responsibility to students here and elsewhere to take some definitive action. It doesn’t really fulfill that responsibility to simply say, ‘He left to pursue other interests'”.