Israeli College and Its Would-be President Come to Terms After Contract Scandal

Prof. Joram Feldon sued his employer this past February, about two months after the administration withdrew his presidential appointment.

Jezreel Valley College has reached an agreement with Prof. Joram Feldon, who was supposed to serve as the college's next president, that will keep Feldon on staff but prevent him from taking the top post at the institution.

Feldon, who began working at the college as vice president of research and development in January 2011, sued his employer this past February, about two months after the administration withdrew his presidential appointment, which was scheduled to begin in July. Under the agreement, he withdrew his suit; in exchange, he will remain on the school's faculty through the end of the year, though the agreement stipulates that his presence is not required at the institution. In addition, he will receive around NIS 200,000 in damages and court costs, as well as severance pay, as required by law. The agreement was submitted by the parties to the Nazareth District Labor Court.

The college claimed that it terminated its contract with Feldon because he concealed the fact that he continued to hold down a full-time position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH ), drawing full pay. Feldon was working at ETH when he was hired.

Jezreel Valley College also said it received unflattering reports about Feldon's conduct at ETH. Feldon was subsequently fired from ETH, which had been unaware of his employment in Israel and has said that the moonlighting violated its own principles.

Feldon argued that his contract was withdrawn because he refused to promise to appoint Prof. Aliza Shenhar, who has been president of the college since its founding 15 years ago, as rector, after he succeeded her.

The State Comptroller's report issued in May was highly critical of the college's contract with Feldon. Among other provisions, the contract included the payment of a full-time salary, despite requiring that Feldon spend only 180 days in Israel each year for the the first two years; the provision of a furnished apartment in north Tel Aviv, including rent, utilities, taxes and maintenance, to the tune of NIS 15,000 a month; and travel by taxi between Tel Aviv and the college, 90 kilometers away.

The compromise agreement submitted to the court stipulates that Feldon can remain in the college-funded apartment through the end of the year, albeit from next month he will have to contribute NIS 4,500 per month toward expenses. The college also agreed to pay for shipping Feldon's personal possessions from Israel to Switzerland, in addition to shipping two containers of laboratory equipment to a destination of Feldon's choice. The college will also pay for his return airfare to Switzerland.

In a statement of response the college said that as a rule it prefers out-of-court settlements to prolonged litigation, that the terms of the agreement were approved by the Finance Ministry's wages supervisor and that a search committee has been appointed to find new candidates for the position of college president.

As reported in Haaretz last month, college officials hired a private investigator to determine who sent the letter about Feldon's extravagant terms of employment to the State Comptroller's Office, setting off the investigation and critical report.

Because of the letter, the initial contract with Feldon was brought to the attention of the planning and budget committee of the Finance Ministry's Wages and Labor Department, which declared that the contract had not been submitted for approval and was not appropriate or acceptable, and ordered the employment terms to be downgraded.