A former Mills College employee has sued the Oakland school, claiming she was laid off in retaliation for reporting she had been bitten by the president's dog.

Pamela Reid, of Pleasant Hill, said a terrier mix belonging to President Janet Holmgren attacked her on campus in August 2009. Reid was laid off as Holmgren's assistant in January, according to the suit, which was filed Sept. 3 in Alameda County Superior Court.

The incident, the suit claims, occurred when Reid arrived at Holmgren's on-campus home to prepare for an event. The terrier, named Holly, ran out of the house and bit her left calf, she said.

"I was about 2 feet inside the gate and heard the dog tags jingling," Reid said Tuesday. "I had never been bitten in my life. That was just a shock."

But the real shock, Reid said, came after she reported the bite to Oakland Animal Services. Holmgren, she said, turned a cold shoulder after that point.

"My leg was never referenced again," Reid said. "It was clear the situation had turned and that it was now my fault. There was tremendous tension in the office."

College leaders said they do not comment on pending lawsuits or personnel matters, but referred to the lawsuit as "meritless claims." A college spokeswoman, Jeanne Herrera, did not respond to questions about the whereabouts of Holmgren's dog.

Reid also claims the private women's college tried to replace her with Holmgren's daughter, but that the school's board of trustees declined the appointment.


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Holmgren announced in February that she would step down as president and return to teaching next year, after her 20th year as president. The school declined at the time of the announcement to give a reason for the resignation.

The lawsuit seeks lost wages and other unspecified damages from Holmgren and the college. Reid has been out of work since she was laid off, said her attorney, Mark Meuser.

"My client, who is very well-qualified, has not been able to get even a job interview in the past eight months," Meuser said.

The director of Oakland Animal Services, Megan Webb, did not return phone and e-mail messages. An Oakland police spokeswoman said the department had no record of the Mills incident.

Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Contact him at 925-943-8246. Follow him at Twitter.com/mattkrupnick.