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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Purdue and its former chancellor settle lawsuit" and "Trimble report" finally released? Not yet!

ILB: This post kind of buries the lede! Be sure to read the last half!

Ron Wilkins reports today in the Lafayette Journal & Courier that:

The legal wranglings between former Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Chancellor Michael Wartell and Purdue University ended this week.

A notice of status filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana indicated that Wartell and Purdue had resolved their differences and both sides agreed to dismiss the federal lawsuit later this month. The lawsuit filed in Tippecanoe County Circuit Court was dismissed on Dec. 23, according to court records. * * *

According to previous Journal & Courier reports, Wartell alleged in the lawsuits that he was forced out of his position as chancellor after he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. He had led the campus of 13,000 students for 18 years before he retired in 2011, according to reports in the Associated Press. His request for a waiver to the mandatory retirement policy was denied.

In the lawsuits, Wartell alleged that then-Purdue President France Córdova and university trustees’ refusal to approve his waiver was in line with Còrdova’s goal to hire more female administrators. He was succeeded by Vicky Carwein, who was 64 when she was hired in 2012.

Asked to comment on the pending dismissal, Purdue’s legal counsel Steve Schultz said, “The matter in federal court has been resolved and will now be dismissed.

“With respect to the resolved state case, we were pleased to reach closure on a matter that to us merited standing on an important principle — that principle being the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege.”

ILB: That last paragraph refers to the "Trimble report". The most recent post the ILB has on that report is from Sept. 7, 2014.

But now it turns out the report was released to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette yesterday afternoon. [ILB Update: Wrong, only the cost of the report was released!]

Here, from Rebebecca S. Green's FWJG story yesterday:

Somebody has cried “uncle” in the federal lawsuit stemming from the forced retirement of former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell.

On Monday, attorneys for Purdue University, the defendant in the lawsuit, filed paperwork announcing a settlement has been reached and that they had the permission of Wartell’s attorneys to file the notice.

The filing promised the ultimate dismissal of the suit, per whatever agreement Purdue reached with Wartell, who sued the school in both federal and Tippecanoe County court in 2013.

No details of the settlement were released, and Wartell’s attorneys declined to comment further on the matter. * * *

In both the state and federal cases, Purdue officials have fought to keep secret the report compiled by attorney John Trimble, who was hired to investigate Wartell’s removal.

Trimble completed his investigation in February 2013 and turned his report over to a group of Purdue board members, who found that no discrimination had taken place.

The university refused to make the document available to Wartell’s attorneys, however, citing attorney-client privilege and claiming that the document was not a public record.

That report, identified in multiple court documents as the Trimble Report, has been the subject of multiple motions, hearings and arguments within the past year. And in all of them, the courts have held that the document is not subject to attorney-client privilege and is a public record.

In September, Purdue’s attorneys asked for a protective order to keep the document a secret. No ruling on their request was made. Status conferences in the case were delayed over the past few months, most recently in January.

The Trimble Report has not been released, nor has documentation about how much money Purdue spent to keep the document out of the public eye.

Now today Green reports:
It cost Purdue University $19,203.27 to produce the “Trimble report” – the school’s investigation into the forced retirement of former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell.

It cost the school more than $153,200 to keep the document from the prying eyes of the public, the media and Wartell’s own attorneys over the course of about 18 months, according to a recent accounting from Purdue University.

Purdue University released the information to The Journal Gazette late Tuesday afternoon, nearly six months after the newspaper requested information about how much money the school spent to fight the report’s disclosure.

Purdue’s belated response to the request for information came within 24 hours of the filing of federal court documents announcing that a settlement had been reached in the case, pending since 2013. * * *

Purdue refused to disclose the Trimble report during the course of the state lawsuit. Wartell appealed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals found that the document was a public record.

Again trying to keep it secret in the federal lawsuit, Purdue’s attorneys claimed again that it was protected by attorney-client privilege. But in July, a federal magistrate judge ruled that had Trimble been working as Purdue’s attorney, Wartell would have been told that before he talked to him.

The document was subject to discovery and should be disclosed, according to court documents.

Then in September, Purdue’s attorneys asked for a protective order to keep the report a secret.

According to Purdue University, the school spent a total of $153,241.35 in legal fees incurred by fighting open records requests related to the report.

In May, the university spent $29,340 – the most of any month, according to Purdue.

Purdue officials did not respond to an email seeking comment as to why it took six months to reply to The Journal Gazette’s request for information.

The total amount released Tuesday reflects only money spent until August. The Journal Gazette filed an additional request Tuesday afternoon, seeking the total amount spent from September until January on fighting disclosure of the report.

No information on the amount of the settlement reached in the federal lawsuit has yet been made public.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 4, 2015 08:39 AM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions | Indiana Government