The co-founder of a now-closed university in Carlsbad has filed a $21 million lawsuit against the state of California alleging her university was shut down, even though it was licensed for two more years.
The suit states that allegations made against her caused "loss of her business and future business, utter devastation of her personal and professional reputation and complete devastation of her political career."
The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday alleges violations of the education and business and professions codes and breach of contract, among other claims. See lawsuit here
Following a series of NBC 7 investigations, state regulators with the agency launched an investigation and ordered Aristotle University in Carlsbad to shut down or face a fine.
Gionis, who lost a special state Senate election in the South Bay in March, says Aristotle University was wrongly shut down in February despite having approval to operate through April 2015.
The Bureau for Postsecondary Education is named in the suit, along with several of its officers and a spokesman.
Gionis is also suing Republican-state Senator Mark Wyland of Carlsbad, whose statements about the school, she called "derogatory and damaging." See his letter here
In an email to NBC 7, Wyland responded stating, "The Department of Consumer Affairs investigated and determined that students were being taken advantage of at Aristotle. The fact that the state shut down the school indicates there was a real problem and that people were right to be concerned. I am glad if my involvement helped protect consumers."
The suit also names a former nursing teacher and a friend of the former students, Lisa Robinson, both of whom NBC interviewed for our series of reports. See their stories here
In response to the lawsuit, Lisa Robinson told NBC 7, “My only agenda for inquiring about Aristotle University was to find out if the students from Africa, India and the Philippines would receive a Masters in Public Health as paid for and promised. If there is any information to indicate that is possible, from the school or any official, that would come as a great relief to the foreign students whose lives have been turned upside down.”
Former Students told NBC 7 they attended class once a week for months, with little instruction.
The lawsuit says the students' statements were false.
The students are now trying to recover thousands of dollars in tuition and said they must transfer to a new school or go back to their home countries. The students say despite repeated requests, Gionis never provided them with transcripts.
NBC 7 spoke with Gionis' attorney Thursday, who said that Gionis had to be hospitalized twice during the "ordeal" and was extremely depressed.
A representative from the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education said they were aware of the lawsuit, but weren't going to comment.
The Department of Homeland Security has also launched their own investigation into the University. The Department indicated that no update on that investigation was currently available.