Monday, September 1, 2014

Brittany Bailey and Willie Preston: The Latest Victims of the Watson Slime Machine. Notice How Well Watson's Management-by-Intimidation Worked With Maria Moore, Yolande Bourgeois and James Crowley. Watson Costs City Colleges and Chicago State Millions.

There is a certain consistency in Wayne Watson’s response to challenges to his authority. As he said before he even started at Chicago State, he likes to fire people. Apparently however, he often finds that exercise of power insufficient to satisfy his seeming insatiable appetite for vengeance. As the judge in the James Crowley case observed, Watson and his administration were not simply after victory in the court case, they wanted to “crush” Crowley. After firing him, forcing Crowley to exhaust his savings and dip into his retirement to live, Wayne Watson and Patrick Cage saw fit to report Crowley to the ARDC which resulted in difficulties for Crowley in securing employment after Chicago State terminated him. Now Willie Preston is the victim of Watson’s vengeance—as the full weight of the state is arrayed against him, Chicago State attempts to destroy him.

Before moving on to Willie Preston’s predicament, some background information seems important. Crowley’s case is not the first time Watson has attempted to “crush” an employee. While at City Colleges, Watson found himself the target of a lawsuit filed by Maria Moore. Eventually, City Colleges decided to settle the matter in favor of Moore, a decision that likely cost them millions of dollars in damages (plus Moore’s attorney fees). Sounds familiar no? Also familiar are the circumstances giving rise to lawsuit and the behavior of Watson, acting like a two-bit goon, just as he did in the Crowley case.

Although reports on the Crowley verdict call the case a “landmark” decision, the 2011 settlement between City Colleges and Maria Moore also reveals Watson losing millions of dollars in a whistleblower case, albeit one apparently containing a non-disclosure agreement and sealed evidence. Thus, after the lawsuit made the news in 2009 (the filing date was July 24), it basically disappeared from the public view. Here, I will publish some of the relevant excerpts from both the complaint and the opinion by a Federal judge that destroyed Watson’s defense and forced City Colleges to settle the suit.

The contours of the Moore suit are familiar also. As he did with Crowley, Watson ordered Moore to violate the law, in this case by making videos with public funds for Watson’s friends and political cronies. When Moore went to the OEIG’s office, Watson harassed her then fired her (as he did with Crowley). In 2011, Moore filed suit, won the case and a large settlement (as has Crowley). Here is Moore’s complaint with its numerous allegations, all supported by her victory. These documents show Watson, with a complicit Board of Trustees refusing to do anything, ordering Moore to break the law.


Maria Moore was not the only victim of Watson’s harassment. Yolande Bourgeois, then the Ethics Officer at City Colleges, now a Cook County Circuit Court Judge, also suffered at the hands of the “Chancellor.” An opinion rendered by Martin Ashman on November 8, 2010, provides validation of Moore's claims as well as a glimpse into Bourgeois's experiences with Watson.


These three incidents provide a behavioral pattern that is hard to ignore. Anyone who disagrees with a Watson dictum, even one that is illegal, is likely going to pay a price, often a steep one. Currently, Willie Preston is being given the “Watson treatment” by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the entity defending Chicago State against the Bailey-Preston lawsuit filed in May of this year. Although the recent response filed on behalf of Chicago State comes from the AG’s office, Watson’s influence seems recognizable.

The issue for Willie and Brittany Bailey is the $400 filing fee that the university’s response claims he was able to pay. In the AG’s view, Preston’s request for a waiver of the filing fee constituted “fraud” against the court—according to the AG’s office, claiming poverty when he had raised “thousands of dollars” for his legal defense. According to the response, this should be sufficient to win a dismissal of the case. However, as the defense did in Crowley’s case, they qualified their argument by including an alternative request. In this instance, the alternative involves revoking their “poverty” status and forcing them to bear the entire expense of the legal effort (which they are already doing, minus the $400 filing fee).

Preston’s attorney made clear in an e-mail to the Assistant Attorney General that “These funds that you reference go directly towards the plaintiffs’ legal fees and cannot fairly be construed as income or gifts for them. THE DONATIONS HAVE NOT THUS FAR BEEN . . . SUFFICIENT TO COVER LEGAL COSTS, AND THEY ARE NOT EXPECTED TO BE SUFFICIENT TO COVER FUTURE COSTS.”

The truth is that rather than “thousands of dollars,” the Brittany Bailey-Willie Preston fund currently stands at $1985, with no new donations for nearly three weeks. Given that the total bill for this action will probably be around $10,000, the amount raised so far seems wholly inadequate. Perhaps the judge will rule that the pitiful amount of money raised to this point obligates Brittany and Willie to pay the filing fee. If so, the university can take pride in beating down a young man and woman with family responsibilities, negligible assets and insufficient funds to prosecute an action like this.

Since 2006 when the problems began for Maria Moore, Wayne Watson has tried to victimize Moore, Yolande Bourgeois and James Crowley. Obviously the results have been good for them: Moore and Crowley won huge lawsuits against Watson and Bourgeois realized her goal of becoming a Circuit Court Judge. Brittany Bailey and Willie Preston are certainly more vulnerable than those three persons but given Wayne Watson’s proven propensity for mendacity and vindictiveness, the university’s/AG’s attempt to paint Bailey and Preston as dishonest is likely to backfire. In any court of law, which of our top-level administrators would you believe? Patrick Cage and Wayne Watson, both of whom found their testimony “impeached” in the Crowley trial, or Angela Henderson, whose problems with truthfulness are on display in both her application materials and her “academic” endeavors?


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is it Time to Be Concerned? Will Our Sclerotic Board Ever Wake Up to What's Going on at Chicago State?

The members of our ridiculous "Board of Trustees," ultimately responsible for Watson's mismanagement of Chicago State, continue to bury their heads in the sand, listening only to Wayne Watson and his stooges. Of course, as those of us who are "disgruntled" already know (and the board might be realizing), there are serious fiscal and public relations consequences for administrative misconduct. In addition, there are serious consequences for administrative ineptitude. While Wayne Watson busies himself micro-managing the university by interviewing job candidates, while he concurrently loses multi-million dollar lawsuits and packs the administration with sycophantic loyalists and cronies, the university continues to see its enrollment suffer. There is currently no one in the Vice President's position in Enrollment Management, although the ever present Cheri Sidney apparently finds herself at least nominally in charge of that unit. Will she be able to come up with a plan to turn the tide on Chicago State's rapidly disappearing student body? What do you think? Unfortunately, recent figures on fall 2014 enrollment (which are now password-protected, for good reason) point to another decline, although the exact numbers are difficult to divine.

The enrollment numbers for Fall 2013 are finally in for a number of schools in the following categories: our recent IBHE peer institutions, public non-research universities in Illinois and the six contiguous states, and 35 of the schools that participate in the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, mostly HBCU's. Altogether, the enrollment figures for these institutions result in data for 94 separate institutions in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Here is what the figures look like, using Fall 2010 and Fall 2013 enrollments as a yardstick:

Of the 60 institutions that are either "peer" institutions or in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri, Chicago State ranks first in the percentage of its enrollment decline between 2010 and 2013. The 59 schools (Chicago State not included) lost an aggregate of 393 students in that period, for an enrollment decrease of .0068 percent. With its loss of 1661 students during the same three-year period, Chicago State (.0098 percent of the total enrollment) suffers by comparison, 423 percent of the loss of the other 59 schools combined. The median enrollment change for these 60 schools between 2010-13 is a decline of .00869 percent. Compared with the average enrollment decline of the other 59 schools, Chicago State lost 22.6 percent of its students between 2010 and 2013. The second-worst enrollment decline is Eastern Illinois' 15.95 percent. Of the five schools (Governors State, Eastern Illinois, Northeastern Illinois, Chicago State and Western Illinois) that constituted the former "Board of Governors" colleges and universities in Illinois, the average enrollment decline during that three-year period is 11.1 percent. Chicago State's enrollment decline is more than double that. Removing Chicago State from the calculation results in a loss of 9.1 percent for the four other former BOG schools. The aggregate loss for the other 4 BOG schools from 2010-13 is 3758 students. Chicago State, with 13 percent of the total enrollment, by comparison has lost 44 percent of the aggregate loss at the other 4 schools.

An examination of the 35 mainly HBCU institutions with available 2013 data that are participants in Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund reveals that compared to 2010, the 2013 average enrollment change is a decline of 5.35 percent for the other 34 schools. There are four schools with enrollment declines greater than Chicago State's 22.6 percent. Overall, the median decline for these 35 schools is 7.3 percent. Chicago State has 3.2 percent of the enrollment for these 35 schools and its loss of 1661 students is 16.9 percent of the loss of the other 34 Thurgood Marshall Schools (9830).

To summarize, of 94 schools in this survey, Chicago State has experienced enrollment losses since 2010 that make it the fifth worst-performing school between 2010 and 2013. Ranked best to worst, Chicago State's enrollment performance comes in at 90 out of 94. Only 20 of these 94 schools have experienced double-digit losses since 2010 and overall, total enrollment of the 93 other schools (Chicago State not included) has declined an insignificant 1.4 percent, compared to our 22.6 percent loss. I think it safe to say that the Chicago State administration is a failure. Will the board ever figure this out?

BREAKING NEWS: Wayne Watson got us accreditation! The HLC says he's doing a great job, bringing "positive educational advances" to Chicago State!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Post-Crowley appeal: what some folks are thinking...

Comments from the common folk of the state of ILL are starting to emerge following the Tribune article on Friday upholding Jim Crowley's multi-million dollar win over CSU. The Chronicle of Higher Ed has already cited it and it is just a matter of time before others follow suit. We will have to endure a lot of ignorant comments about CSU, but who can blame those outside the institution for noting the colossal waste of money our administration with its grandly stated support by the Board of Trustees has brought on us. No money for classroom technology that actually works, but money for CSU's lawsuits and pay-outs and bogus searches. So what that we hired the same search firm that participated in a trumped up search in 2008-2009 for another trumped up search in 2014 for $100,000 that has yet to bring us a permanent provost. So what? we're told, "insurance will pay off Crowley" (love to see how much "insurance" really will pay out and how many times we can wreck the car before they pull the insurance). 

One nasty commentator referred to CSU as a "rathole."

But a letter to the Tribune from the far off reaches of Schaumburg stated something that I have even heard voiced at CSU itself: "Merge Chicago State with UIC." 

Cook County judge recently upheld a verdict in favor of James Crowley, an employee whistleblower who asserted that administrators at Chicago State University engaged in misconduct. Those improprieties will now cost Chicago State in excess of $3 million. This is just one of a string of controversies over the years reflecting bad management, fiscal improprieties, poor hiring practices and questionable purchasing at this university, into which taxpayers have dumped tons of money.

 Chicago State is an academic cesspool that should be drained. In an era when higher education has overbuilt and tax money to support Illinois’ community colleges and universities is increasingly scarce, why not make Chicago State a branch campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago? Scores of administrative and staff jobs could be eliminated. Better management and efficiencies of scale could save money. Chicago State has lost the right to steer its own course.
 -- Charles F. Falk, Schaumburg

Unfortunately that is no panacea. The UIC Faculty Senate just voted no confidence in their Chancellor. What is really needed is a complete overhaul of the governance of state universities. The use of these institutions by politicians and their friends needs to come to an end. CSU cannot continue to be a political football passed from one politician to another and expect to succeed at all "those good things" we as faculty try to do. As one of my now retired department chairpersons wearily said, "yes, yes, they'll get us a new president who will be worse than the one before..." We must get off this cycle.

In September there is a meeting of all ILL state faculty senate presidents. I hope they will begin to have this conversation to liberate the universities from the intolerable and expensive political patronage that has been allowed to choke out "all the good things we do" and that envelops all of us across the state.

I'd remind people that there is a CSU board meeting in September where they could also make these pleas known, but the Board is essentially complicit in the entire process and hear, see, and speak no evil where Dr Watson is concerned. And save yourself the insult of writing to them. All you'll get in return is a form letter from Farah Muscadin telling you how much they believe that manure smells like roses.

The James Crowley Lawsuit: Chicago State's Laughable Legal Arguments

“[T]here was no evidence presented to suggest the Defendant's actions were done by mistake or inadvertence. In fact, any reasonable fact finder would be quite convinced by the evidence that Defendants went out of their way to crush the Plaintiff.” James McCarthy, “Memorandum Opinion,” August 28, 2014, 31.

"Narcissistic self-celebration is a strong correlate of organizational dysfunction." Polish Peter comments on this post: http://www.margaretsoltan.com/?p=44918

Take a look at the material on the James Crowley lawsuit then compare it to the continual celebration of Wayne Watson on the university's website.

This morning, I found on this website http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1109116/notice-of-filing-and-motion-for-post-trial.txt, a copy of the request for a new trial filed by Chicago State in the wake of the February-March decision in favor of James Crowley. It is replete with formatting errors and other problems, but I have no reason to doubt its authenticity. Since this document forms the basis for Judge McCarthy’s recent opinion, it is worth examining. What it reveals is alarming.

Here is a summary of the factual events undergirding the Crowley lawsuit: Although ordered to break the law and withhold public documents available under the Freedom of Information Act by Wayne Watson in August 2009, James Crowley refused to do so. The following month, Crowley went to the Attorney General’s Office with complaints about the university’s irregular financial and contract practices. In August, when Watson threatened Crowley and ordered him to withhold the public documents, he had not officially begun his duties as Chicago State’s president and thus should have not been involved in FOIA or other decisions. In response, Crowley defied him and acted in the best interests of the institution and the taxpayers of Illinois. Although dealing with the Attorney General’s Office can be a less than satisfying experience (as I can confirm since I have been involved with the Office of the Executive Inspector General as a witness and more recently as a complainant about ethical violations committed by Wayne Watson here at Chicago State), Crowley’s exposure of potential ethics violations afforded him “whistleblower” protection.

In February 2010, Wayne Watson fired James Crowley for cause. Instead of sending Crowley a “notice of intent” to terminate as required by Board regulations, the letter indicated that the termination was “effective immediately.” Apparently not satisfied with firing Crowley Patrick Cage (almost assuredly with Watson’s approval) filed a complaint against Crowley with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Although the investigation conducted by that body revealed no basis for disciplinary proceedings, Cage’s actions hampered Crowley’s ability to find a job as an attorney.

In the trial, all the jury found all these facts to be true, resulting in a huge award for Crowley. However, the university disputed the verdict and retained outside counsel to assist them in their efforts to obtain a new trial. Their arguments were: 1) “The Ethics Act(§ 15-25) does not authorize the award of punitive damages as a remedy”; 2) “If the Act does authorize punitive damages there was no evidence presented to the jury of actual malice or if there was such evidence it was erroneously admitted by the Court”; 3) “The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct ban retaliatory discharge claims by inhouse counsel under the Ethics Act as a matter of law “; 4)“If in-house counsel can sue under the Ethics Act, no reasonable jury could have found that Plaintiff proved that the decision maker who terminated him knew of Plaintiff's meeting with the Attorney General's Office and therefore, that meeting was not a contributing factor in their termination decision”; 5) “Plaintiff produced no evidence to support a claim against Defendant Watson in his individual capacity.”

Just in case those arguments fell flat, the university threw out a few more:
In the alternative, Defendants moved for a New Trial based on the following arguments: 1) “There is no right to a jury trial under the Ethics Act and therefore the Court improperly delegated its fact finding function to the jury;” 2) “If the Act permitted a jury trial, the case was not tried before an impartial and unbiased jury as evidenced by a particular juror's failure to disclose past and pending lawsuits during voir dire and said lawsuits were a statutory impediment to the prospective juror sitting as a member of the jury”; 3) “The Court committed prejudicial error by admitting certain evidence and exhibits during the course of the trial; 4) “The Court committed ‘plain’ error by allowing two alternate jurors to deliberate with the jury and to sign the verdict form in violation of 735 ILCS 5/2-1106(b ).”

In addition to the demand for a new trial, the university “also moved for a Remittitur of the punitive damage award as well as a Remittitur of the award of double back pay.” So this shotgun motion for a new trial included assertions that punitive awards were not permissible, unless they were, in which case there was no malice proven; also that the plaintiff had no right to a jury trial, unless he did, in which case the jury was biased; as in-house counsel, Crowley had no right to sue, unless he did, in which case neither Cage nor Watson knew he had gone to the Attorney General’s Office; the court erred repeatedly; no evidence proved Watson’s culpability. Judge McCarthy found none of those arguments compelling.

Here are some of the highlights from the university’s motion:

“this Court should grant a new trial because there was no right to a jury trial under the Ethics Act and this Court impermissibly delegated its fact-finding function to the jury.” Then: “Even if the Act permitted a jury trial, this case was not tried before an impartial and unbiased jury.” Then: “the punitive damages awarded against the Board for $2,000,000 must be vacated because section 15-25 of the Ethics Act does not authorize punitive damages as one of the remedies for a violation of the Act.” Then this: “In the alternative, even if section 15-25 can be read to authorize punitive damages, the award must be vacated because there was no evidence of actual malice to support the award returned by the jury, and the ONLY EVIDENCE OF MALICE THAT COULD HAVE ARGUABLY SUPPORTED AN AWARD WAS ERRONEOUSLY ADMITTED.” So there was malice? Continuing on: “just as common law retaliatory discharge claims by in-house counsel against their employers are barred altogether as a matter of Illinois law, the same must hold true with respect to statutory claims by in-house counsel whose conduct is governed by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.” But, “if in-house counsel could maintain a claim under the Ethics Act, no reasonable jury could have found that Plaintiff proved that the decision-maker(s) who were involved in his termination knew that he had met with the AGS Office, and for that reason the meeting was not a contributory factor in his termination.” Finally: “Plaintiff produced no evidence at trial to support a claim against President Watson in his individual capacity as his duty to sign Plaintiffs notice of intent to terminate existed solely by virtue of his state employment.”

Since this is Chicago State’s legal argument, there is a considerable amount of cynicism, innuendo and just plain sleaze. Here’s the university’s discussion of the post-termination complaint Patrick Cage filed with the ARDC, evidence CSU claims should not have been admitted into evidence. “The Defendants were unfairly prejudiced by evidence admitted over their objection arising from the request for ARDC investigation by Patrick Cage.” After all, Cage agonized over the requested “investigation,” but, “Cage testified he filed the request after he consulted with Judge Bernetta Bush (retired), the University’s Ethics and Diversity Officer and Special Counsel to the President, and determined that his ethical obligations required him to do so.” It is not difficult to imagine that conversation. Here is what seems a reasonable assumption for the jury to make, exposed unintentionally in the university’s response: “The jury could have only understood the evidence that the ARDC did not proceed meant the request for investigation itself was improperly motivated, as evidence of retaliatory animus, and prejudicial. This is especially true because a jury of lay people could not be expected to understand the differences between an ARDC “investigation” and a charge or complaint.” Pity those poor stupid jurors. Of course, this elides the question of how one “requests” an “investigation” without having some allegation or complaint as the request’s foundation.

There are some gems in the part about the university’s failure to follow established personnel policy in Crowley’s case. “[T]his Court permitted Plaintiff to introduce evidence that he did not receive a hearing regarding his termination and argue that this was evidence of retaliatory animus.” The university also complained that “[t]he introduction of evidence about the alleged defects in the termination procedures plainly prejudiced Defendants. Plaintiff made this a central focus of his case, discussing it in both his opening statement and closing argument in detail and calling [Renee] Mitchell as an adverse witness in his case to highlight it as well.”

The university’s argument in favor of the elimination or reduction of the punitive damages is priceless: Here, the university seems to admit that its employees committed misconduct: “As noted in Section supra, punitive damages imposed on a government entity are disfavored as a matter of public policy because such awards effectively punish taxpayers who have no control over the misconduct of public employees.” It gets better, here the university waxes hyperbolically about the potential effects of this kind of award: “Allowing a $2,000,000 punitive award to stand creates real potential for a 'stampede to the courthouse' an 'intolerable' situation that would threaten to bankrupt the state and unfairly punish its citizens.” Then there is this: “Plaintiff, and the consequences would be felt by innocent Illinois taxpayers and blameless college students.” It is nice to see the university so concerned about the welfare of Illinois taxpayers and Chicago State students. Perhaps Watson should have considered this before acting like a character in a third-rate Mafioso film.

Given the strong desire of this administration to continue its myriad unethical and even corrupt practices and given the Board’s unwillingness to confront the real issues facing Chicago State, it seems inevitable that the school will throw even more money away on this charade—this unconscionable defense of an utterly failed president and his administration.

As a final note, I have heard from some of my colleagues that things here are not much different from the way they are at other universities. Really? I would be interested to know how many other universities have been hammered financially because of misdeeds by the president or how many other universities have a newly-minted (and fraudulent) recipient of the Ph.D. as Provost, how many other universities condone lying by high-level administrators on resumes or applications or how many other university faculties suffer the agony of consistent incursions by the president into areas in which he possesses no expertise? Or for that matter, how many other universities have a president with such a pitiful and inadequate C.V.? Just wondering.
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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Crowley Opinion: The Lies, Vindictiveness and Incompetence of the Watson Administration and its Crack (or is it Crap?) Legal Mouthpieces

Building on Corday’s post about the opinion in the Crowley Whistleblower case, I will provide excerpts from the opinion to add additional detail to the story that appeared in the Tribune. The opinion paints a graphic portrait of the lies, discriminatory behavior, contempt for established policy and the obsession with intimidation and retribution practiced by Wayne Watson and abetted by Patrick Cage. Make no mistake about the original trial and this opinion, it is a complete repudiation of Watson’s management and for any thinking person should demonstrate his unfitness to lead this institution. Frankly, it is hard to imagine this kind of behavior occurring at any other institution of higher learning (except one managed by Watson and his cronies of course). If anyone wants a copy of the opinion, I will be happy to provide one; simply e-mail me at rbionaz@att.net.

The Tribune aptly described Judge James P. McCarthy’s opinion as “harshly worded.” McCarthy reserved some of his most pointed criticisms for the behavior of Wayne Watson and his other “management team” members. Addressing both issues of law and issues of fact, McCarthy’s opinion gives the reader a glimpse into the internal workings of the Watson administration. It is an ugly picture.

McCarthy’s opinion rejects Chicago State’s appeal on a point-by-point basis. On pages 12 and 13, the opinion addresses the university’s claim that administrators had no knowledge of Crowley reporting alleged violations to the Illinois Executive Inspector General’s Office. McCarthy disputes that assertion, writing that “a substantial amount of evidence was in fact presented to the jury from which reasonable jurors could conclude that the decision maker(s) knew of Plaintiff’s meeting with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in the last half of 2009.” McCarthy writes further that “Though President Watson and Patrick Cage specifically denied any such knowledge, THEIR CREDIBILITY WAS AT ISSUE AND THAT WAS WITHIN THE SOLE PROVINCE OF THE JURY TO DECIDE” (Caps mine). In fact, both Watson and Cage found their testimony impeached during the trial. McCarthy opines: “The jurors were not required to accept Defendants’ denials, ESPECIALLY WHERE BOTH WITNESSES WERE IMPEACHED BY THE CHANGING OF THEIR AFFADAVITS . . . WITHIN DAYS BEFORE THIS TRIAL COMMENCED” (Caps mine). McCarthy finishes his destruction of the university’s argument by writing “the jury was not obligated to accept Defendants’ witnesses as credible or accept Defendants’ view of the proofs.” This is a polite way of saying that the jury believed both Watson and Cage to be liars.


Moving to page 22, we find McCarthy discussing how Watson discriminated against James Crowley by applying rules and disciplinary procedures differently than they were applied to other high-level administrators. McCarthy writes: “Evidence of the wide disparity in the process and treatment provided . . . by the ‘senior management’ team is certainly germane to the issues in this case, IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN TO REBUT THE ABSURD TESTIMONY OF PATRICK CAGE, DR. WATSON AND MR. MEEHAN (Internal Auditor John Meehan) in explaining their actions/decisions regarding the plaintiff” (Caps mine). Comparing Crowley’s case with another administrator’s disciplinary proceedings, McCarthy finds that “the investigation or lack thereof in the Plaintiff’s case was far more swift . . .” Along with being untruthful in their testimony, Watson and Cage also engage in arbitrary and capricious personnel practices, ignoring policy and treating one employee differently from another.


As is his wont, Watson sought to avoid responsibility for his actions in the Crowley case, claiming that he was not a party to the fiasco. McCarthy demolishes that argument on pages 13 and 14 of his opinion. Although the university argued that “Watson’s sole involvement in this case was the mere fact he signed Plaintiff’s termination letter on February 19, 2010. However the totality of the evidence indicates otherwise.” The evidence includes a “special audit or investigation of Plaintiff Crawley [sic]” ordered by “senior management” in January 2010. In this “investigation,” conducted by Meehan, the auditor never interviewed Crowley, produced no records of the investigation, and McCarthy’s opinion finds “the failure of Watson the President, Cage the General Counsel, and [Renee] Mitchell the Head of Human Resources, to follow the very guidelines/protocol that were in effect at Chicago State University for the termination of an employee provide direct and circumstantial [evidence] of Watson’s involvement.” The opinion then deals with the famous Watson FOIA meeting and quote “If you read this my way you are my friend—if you read it the other way, you are my enemy,” asserting that the meeting and comment provide “further evidence to support a claim against Defendant Watson.” In fact, “by signing Plaintiff’s termination letter on February 19, 2010,” Wayne Watson “participated in, ratified or condoned all of the actions/inactions of his senior management team in their dealings with the termination of Plaintiff Crawley (Crowley).” In a note at the bottom of the page, McCarthy asks a question that still remains unanswered. How and why did Watson, ostensibly not employed at Chicago State in August 2009, call the “FOIA meeting in the President’s Office . . . [issue] the threat to Plaintiff” and inform Crowley to “direct any future FOIA responses to Watson before their release” as well as ordering Crowley to “advise Hermene Hartman as to what documents that Plaintiff was going to release.”


Having established Watson’s credentials as a thug, McCarthy explores the desire for retribution so prevalent in Watson’s management “style.” McCarthy writes that the award to Crowley resulted from a jury that “was diligent, considerate, and attentive to the oath they took . . . and to their evaluation of the evidence and to their assessment of the credibility of the witnesses.” In terms of the amount of the award, the court considers three factors, the most important being “the degree of reprehensibility.” The criteria include an evaluation of whether the defendants’ actions caused: “physical harm . . . threatened [a] person’s health and safety, targeted financially vulnerable persons, committed multiple acts of misconduct . . . [or] acted intentionally.” McCarthy’s findings are simply alarming.

McCarthy finds that although the actions of Wayne Watson and his henchmen did no physical harm that they caused Crowley “to lose all health and insurance coverage benefits” and “deprived [plaintiff] of his work income,” forcing Crowley to “exhaust his savings as well as his retirement account and pay early withdrawal penalties on the funds.” McCarthy determines the evidence proves that Watson “committed multiple acts of misconduct,” and did so intentionally. McCarthy writes: “here there is no doubt that all of the Defendants’ actions were deliberate, intentional and not done inadvertently or negligently.” Indeed, a fine example of management.


This decision is further vindication for James Crowley. On display in the opinion is the stock in trade of Wayne Watson’s administrative ethos: vindictive hubris coupled with gross ignorance of law and policy. His administrative failings have cost this university dearly and will undoubtedly continue to do so. He is responsible for this disgrace.








Thursday, August 28, 2014

Welcome Back Crowley! Judge to CSU: "The public has been made aware of questionable misconduct at Chicago State University and the public may hold the responsible officials accountable so as to deter any future misconduct..."

Well this is where we work. We can talk all we want "about the good things that we do," but this is us in this "landmark" case, a poster-child for political corruption. Well, when you run a university like a political ward this is what you get. How many politicians will we need to prop us up this time? How many more p.r. statements tut-tutting this away? And how many more "harshly worded" statements from judges will we have to endure? -- there are more lawsuits out there to come...

And who explains to the ILL taxpayers that they are the ones footing the $3 million bill? The Board of Trustees? the Governor? or Dr. Watson himself?

Stray thoughts on a late summer's eve: imagine what it would be like to work, to teach, to be part of a university where you actually believed and trusted in the leadership? Chimeras, alas.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-state-whisteblower-case-met-20140828-story.html

Judge upholds verdict in Chicago State University whistleblower case
James Crowley

By Jodi S. Cohen and Stacy St. Clair
Tribune reporters
August 28, 2014 

Judge upholds $3 million whistleblower judgment against Chicago State University
Chicago State whistleblower should get job back, plus $3 million, judge says

A Cook County judge Thursday upheld the verdict in a landmark whistleblower case against Chicago State University, ordering the public institution to pay the fired employee more than $3 million and give him back his old job or face further financial penalties.

Chicago State had appealed the verdict on several issues, including that the jury foreman did not disclose during jury selection that he had been sued in a wrongful termination case brought by a relative of a Chicago State trustee. The university also claimed the damages were excessive.

In a 44-page, harshly worded opinion against Chicago State, Cook County Judge James McCarthy said there were no reasons to overturn the verdict and that the large sum was intended to send a message. The jury had found that former university employee James Crowley was fired in 2010 in retaliation for reporting alleged misconduct by top university officials, including Chicago State President Wayne Watson.

The verdict is believed to be the first stemming from a whistleblower claim filed under the state ethics act, which sets out guidelines for behavior by employees and includes protection for employees who disclose activities they believe violate the act.

McCarthy said that although taxpayers and students "eventually pay this bill," Illinois' history of public corruption makes such awards necessary.

"The public has been made aware of questionable misconduct at Chicago State University and the public may hold the responsible officials accountable so as to deter any future misconduct," he wrote.

The jury deliberated for 30 minutes in February before ruling in favor of Crowley, a former university attorney, after a two-week trial. The university was ordered to pay Crowley more than $3 million — $2 million in punitive damages and more than $1 million in back pay. Crowley, 48, was also ordered to be reinstated to his job.

In Thursday's decision, McCarthy increased the amount the university may have to pay. He ordered the university to pay $318,000 in attorney fees and found that, if the university doesn't reinstate Crowley, it will be ordered to pay him "front pay" from Thursday until any appeals are resolved. Crowley's salary had been $120,000 a year.

"Potentially, the clock on what Crowley continues to get in this case continues to run unless they reinstate him," said Crowley's attorney, Anthony Pinelli. "The verdict has been upheld in its entirety."

A Chicago State spokesman said the university will appeal. "Obviously, this is a unique case. We do feel with all the facts that came to light before and after the case, we feel we are in a good position for an appeal," said spokesman Thomas Wogan.

Among the issues revealed after the case was that the jury foreman, Antoine Bass, did not disclose before trial that he had been sued in a wrongful termination case brought by a relative of a university trustee, nor that he was involved in other litigation.

McCarthy — who questioned Bass about his omissions during a post-trial hearing — ruled Thursday that the foreman was not "intentionally dishonest" and had little influence on the quick jury deliberations.

In its motion for a new trial, Chicago State also claimed the trial judge committed errors and the state's whistleblower law was wrongfully applied.

McCarthy batted down all of those claims. He also cited several reasons for refusing to throw out the multimillion-dollar judgment, including because the university tried to destroy Crowley's work opportunities and reputation.

"Any reasonable fact-finder would be quite convinced by the evidence that defendants went out of their way to crush (Crowley)," the judge wrote.

McCarthy also found "dubious" Chicago State's claim that it could not reinstate Crowley because it would displace other employees, saying the institution employs hundreds of people.

"I am grateful that the judge's opinion totally vindicates me from any wrongdoing," Crowley said. "I appreciate the jury's verdict and the court's ruling on these issues. Having been a trial attorney for the attorney general's office, it's been an interesting view of our legal system as a plaintiff, and I'm happy to say it worked."

Crowley's lawsuit — filed against the South Side university, Watson and the seven trustees on the board in 2010 — alleged that he was fired after he refused to withhold documents about Watson's employment requested under the state's public records law, and for reporting questionable contracts to the attorney general's office.

The university argued he was fired due to improper financial dealings and misuse of university resources.

jscohen@tribune.com

sstclair@tribune.com

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Shooting On Campus???

So, are people and/or animals safe at university sponsored events? Apparently the answer is no. What is more disturbing loyal readers is that like many police incidents the post incident response is often poorly managed to the point of raising serious questions about the competence of the entire agency involved. To wit, I present the following as I understand it. Mind you, I am awaiting a response from a FOIA request submitted yesterday.

On Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 at or about 6PM, a certified member of the CSU Police Department discharged his firearm killing a canine, possibly two, and injuring the owner of the second canine, prior to the Jazz in the Grass event held on campus. The owner of the second canine suffered a gunshot wound to the foot requiring emergency surgery. I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the victim of this incident both on her injury and the loss of her canine companion. As a dog owner, I can only imagine how I would feel as a result of a dog attack and police weapons discharge.
As frightening as this event appears to have been, what is more disturbing is the aftermath. As I have been trying to piece together what happened, more questions emerged about how the university is handling this event. If I understand generally accepted police procedures around service weapon discharges, a few things need to happen in the immediate aftermath of an incident. 
First, the crime scene must be cordoned off, the service weapon placed in evidence for ballistic examination, all spent rounds and casings recovered, both from the environment, victims and deceased, animal or human. If this were a Chicago Police Department officer, there would be alcohol and drug testing per General Order G03-02-06
Second, the officer involved in the shooting should be placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. 
Third, the university community should be notified that police activity was occurring at the event location and to stay away as not to contaminate the crime scene. 
Fourth, the university should have some press contact so that it doesn’t appear that the institution is attempting hide such a serious event. 
Fifth, the Board of Trustees should be notified of this incident. It is, after all, them who will be named parties in the lawsuit and them who will have to decide how much to pay in the settlement of that lawsuit. Surely, they wouldn’t want this to go to trial and risk a much larger judgement.  
Finally, if the officer who discharged his weapon is of a sufficiently low rank (officer or sergeant) that a qualified lieutenant or captain can conduct the investigation, I would imagine the investigation could be managed internally. If , however, the officer involved is a captain or chief, that investigation should be managed by another law enforcement agency. In this case, I would imagine that the Illinois State Police would handle the investigation because it is inappropriate for subordinates to investigate superiors. This is clearly a conflict of interest. If the Chicago Police Department is investigating, it also may be a conflict of interest, given the chief’s prior affiliation with that agency. 
As it seems that the ISP is not involved I am left to question why not. Is the university police chief hiding something? As a decades long serving peace officer, I am sure he would be familiar with standard investigative procedures. Why is he not on administrative leave? Why wasn’t his service weapon taken into evidence? Why isn’t the ISP handling this investigation? What impact could a botched investigation have on the inevitable law suit by the victim of this shooting? 
As these questions don’t get answered, as has been the practice of this regime, more questions will emerge. Having only worked at a police department for four years, I don’t have the depth of experience to know what the policy is for this type of situation. That is why I submitted a FOIA request so that I could generate more informed questions and provide a better analysis of this situation since it appears that the university is going to remain silent.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chicago State University: Unsafe for Dogs and Concert-goers?

Are public events at Chicago State safe for persons and dogs? From what I hear, we have our very own version of Dirty Harry (or Barney Fife if you prefer) who recently shot up the town. Can anyone confirm this?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Welcome to the New School Year and Back to Business as Usual: The Administration Threatens Staff and Faculty and Screws the Students

As we all know, the problem at Chicago State is that a “small group” of "disgruntled" faculty oppose the Watson administration. As Angela Henderson’s recent complaint alleged, this benighted group neither recognizes the greatness of Watson and his various cronies, nor endorses any of the “positive educational advances and changes” this fabulous administration has visited upon our humble school. Now that a new school year is beginning, we again see how masterfully our wonderful administration operates and what deep regard they have for the faculty, staff and students here at Chicago State.

First, we have the recent communication from the kingdom of Human Resources. This ridiculous e-mail includes standard administrative/Human Resources fare: threats to withhold paychecks, threats to discontinue calculating accrued leave balances, and threats to discipline employees and/or supervisors. The offense: not filling out your electronic timesheet! Imagine that! An administration that ignores lies and cheating on applications/resumes/dissertations by high-level administrators threatens to discipline its employees, those ubiquitous “little people,” for not submitting a form.

The threat to withhold paychecks seems to contravene Illinois law, which says nothing about a paycheck being contingent upon filling out a form:


The threat to refuse to calculate benefits seems to violate the CSU-UPI Contract, which says nothing about sick leave accrual being contingent upon filling out a form:


I have e-mailed Renee Mitchell and asked for clarification on this matter. I will let you know how (or if) she responds.

Second, we just went through another bloodbath as the administration cut courses with its usual steely resolve. Here are the guidelines for chairs to use in creating their course defenses. You’ll note the highlighted part, essentially a comment about putting asses in seats. Is this the pit into which we have descended? Are we now a totally for-profit, bottom-line kind of organization? I was struck by the absence in this memorandum of any reference to the humanity of our students and faculty. As a result, I will endeavor to put a human face on the bean-counting calculations used by the administration to cull our courses.


In our department, we had a number of courses cut. In several cases, the enrollment made the cuts inevitable. Altogether, it appears that of the six faculty (the administration granted, through the grievance process, one of our faculty members a sabbatical just a few days before the beginning of the semester) who are teaching in the Fall, four had at least one course eliminated, with one of our faculty dropping from four courses to two, or a part-time load. Two course cuts, however, were extremely problematic. One survey class contained 8 students. Typically, we get an influx of students into courses immediately after the cut sessions. I believe that the enrollment in this course would have reached between 12 and 14, based on historical trends. For 4 of the 8 students enrolled in the class, its cancellation resulted in a drop in their credit hours from 12 to 9, making them part-time students and creating potential financial aid difficulties. Three of these students are First-time full-time Freshmen, the basis for the calculation of our graduation rate.

While the loss of this course presents obvious problems for students dependent upon financial aid, the administration’s elimination of the second is unfathomable. That course is offered once a year and is a requirement for all undergraduate majors. It contained 6 students with at least one other student planning to register for the class. This student is graduating in December and needs the course to fulfill the requirements for his degree. The department chair made the best argument he could for the retention of this class but the powers-that-be decided they knew best. The decision to cut this class resulted in 5 of the 7 students being reduced to 9 credit hour course schedules. I suppose that making it more difficult for students to complete their degrees by cutting required courses is one of the “positive educational advances and changes” I fail to recognize.

Who in this administration knows how to run a university?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's a New School Year and the Stench from the Cook Building Still Permeates the Air: How the Administration Ignores or Reinterprets the Law. How to Throw Away $100,000. How to Foster Insecurity.

Ostensibly, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) commits public institutions to transparency, in the belief that public scrutiny is an important safeguard against institutional corruption. In Illinois, however, the laws governing the “free flow of information” and that purportedly ensured “transparency” were “neither adequately enforced nor broad enough to create a government that is sufficiently transparent, open and responsive to its citizens’ requests for information.” Thus, “public officials can conduct business without the public’s scrutiny,” which facilitated “a culture of corruption.” A 2009 report by the Illinois Reform Commission found FOIA compliance particularly problematic. In a 2006 report, the Better Government Association found that only thirty-eight percent of 408 government offices responded to legitimate FOIA requests. An additional thirty-nine percent provided no response. The association also found disturbing the significant “level of resistance, obfuscation, and outright hostility that greeted the ordinary citizen asking to see public records.” In Illinois, the lack of adequate laws created an “atmosphere in which corruption thrives, cynicism increases and accountability diminishes.” Given the information contained in the Reform Commission report, one might conclude that public officials in Illinois were not particularly interested in combating the state’s endemic corruption.

Illinois Reform Commission, “100-Day Report,” April 28, 2009, 7, 35-36. Accessed here: http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/reformnow/Documents/press%20releases/IRC%20100-Day%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf.

Chicago State University’s FOIA component could have served as a model for the commission’s report. Although FOIA requests have resulted in a considerable amount of information coming from university sources, Chicago State’s customary responses certainly reflect “resistance, obfuscation,” and even “outright hostility.” A brief comparison with the FOIA practices at the University of Illinois is instructive. At Illinois, the university maintains a publicly accessible FOIA log that includes (for all three campuses) the date, the name of the requestor, a description of the original request and the university’s response to the FOIA request. According to the Illinois Board of Trustees, in calendar 2013, Illinois received 621 FOIA requests. Requestors subsequently submitted 12, or 2 percent, (13 according to the U of Illinois FOIA office) to the Public Access Counselor for Review.

http://www.trustees.uillinois.edu/trustees/agenda/May-14-2014/

I maintain an unofficial FOIA log for my own requests since there is certainly nothing like the Illinois FOIA log available on the Chicago State website. Since August of 2013, I have submitted at least 18 FOIA requests. Chicago State has responded within the statutory time limit on five occasions. The other 13 requests necessitated appeals to the Public Access Counselor for review. The reason for the requests for review in 12 cases was the university’s complete failure to respond within the prescribed time limit, which constitutes a denial. Of the last 10 FOIA requests I have submitted (since December 2013), the university failed to respond all 10 times. While the University of Illinois system complies with the FOIA law 98 percent of the time, here at Chicago State, I have had to appeal to the Public Access Counselor in 72.2 percent of my FOIA requests. I think it possible that the Chicago State administration does not want to give me the requested public information.

Despite the administration's obstructionism, FOIA requests submitted by Chicago State faculty have nonetheless revealed a disturbing pattern of administrative incompetence and fiscal mismanagement. Recently, the university spent $100,000 to hire a search firm to conduct a search for a new Provost. The end result? Seemingly nothing since it appears that Angela Henderson still functions as the university’s Interim Provost. How and why did the university spend that kind of money? The answer to how is rooted in current Illinois law, a resolution passed by the Chicago State Board of Trustees and a Human Resources policy that, I believe, goes far beyond the intent of the law.

On January 1, 2013, a new law went into effect that prohibited the use of external search firms in hiring except for “in the hiring of the President of the University or (ii) in the case of when the President of the University and the Board demonstrate a justifiable need for guidance from an individual or firm with specific expertise in the field of the hiring. The University shall implement a policy under this Section, including qualifying criteria,within 6 months after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly.” In response to this restriction, Chicago State’s administration requested carte blanche to use search firms for other administrative hiring, based on “qualifying criteria” far in excess of what appears to be the law’s intent. On March 8, 2013, the Chicago State Board acquiesced to the university’s “desire” to create “the option of using search firms in the following additional categories of possible searches: vice presidents; deans and health science faculty with terminal degrees.”


The policy that the university finally adopted is even more expansive, with so many “qualifying criteria” that a search firm could be used for almost any hiring (HR Policy Manual, p. 37). That is how this law:


Became this policy:

So, armed with dispensation from the Board and itself to hire a search firm for a new provost, the university did so. Why? The answer to that question is complicated, although I think not particularly opaque. First, Chicago State hired its old reliable search firm, the Hollins Group, the folks who brought us Wayne Watson in 2009. They paid them $100,000 to conduct a search that was already rigged. This meant that the “search committee” created for the provost search would have little or no input into the winnowing of the applicant files. Most of us have had the experience of spending time and effort on a search or other type of committee with a nil net result since the administration (read Wayne Watson) chose to do nothing about whatever recommendation the committee submitted. Clearly, the insider choice of Wayne Watson was his old sidekick, Angela Henderson. It is difficult to imagine how the Hollins Group would produce a list of finalists that would not include Henderson. In any real competitive search for someone to be the chief academic officer of a doctoral degree granting university, someone with Henderson’s non-existent scholarly credentials would not even meet the basic requirements of the job (of course, even here at Chicago State, she was possibly qualified to apply for an entry-level Assistant Professor’s position). Since the applicant group for Chicago State’s provost position did not include any finalists with a similarly meager C.V. (Wayne Watson did not apply), the four finalists included three persons who actually had some qualifications, along with Henderson. Could not this have been done more cheaply than the $100,000 price tag for the Hollins Group? The obvious answer is yes. However, the use of the Hollins Group made the potentially pesky faculty and staff irrelevant. Since the Hollins Group anointed the four finalists, the probability of the “right” candidate emerging out of the applicant pool could potentially be guaranteed. So, either way the search concluded—with a new permanent provost or with the current interim provost in place—the use of the Hollins Group was bound to be a waste of $100,000 of the taxpayer’s money, save to insure that the “right” candidate came out of the herd. Take a particular look at the second document.


Of course, at Chicago State, it is hardly standard procedure to have expeditious searches for administrative positions. An examination of the last two organizational charts published by the university demonstrates that reality while it also shows how this administration uses “interim” administrative appointments. On July 31, 2012, of 20 key administrative positions at Chicago State—Deans of six colleges, Dean of the First Year Experience and Dean of Students; Four Vice Presidents (Administration and Finance, Provost, Enrollment Management and Sponsored Programs); Six Directors (Intergovernmental Affairs, Budget and Resources, Counseling Center, Financial Aid, Institutional Research and Meetings and Events); the Registrar and the Internal Auditor—4 were staffed by “interim” administrators and 3 were vacant. Looking at these same 20 positions now, it appears that 12 are filled by interims and 2 are vacant. In a little more than two years, the number of interim appointments has tripled and the total number of interim/vacant positions has doubled. 16 of the 20 administrative positions are filled by persons who were not in those positions in 2012. Currently, Chicago State has extant job announcements for only 4 of the 14 interim/vacant positions. How does all this administrative upheaval serve the university? Not very well.

None of this is necessarily a reflection on the ability, performance or commitment of the occupants of those interim positions, rather the proliferation of interims speaks to an administrative culture which, at the top, values uproar and uncertainty over consistency. The precarious nature of administrative employment (except for a select few) seems far from optimum and creates the potential for university operations to suffer. As an example, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is new. The previous Dean of the university’s largest college had been an interim appointee since at least 2011. There have been at least three fruitless searches for a permanent Dean. Why? Only Wayne Watson knows the answer to that question. Currently, the Financial Aid Director’s position seems to be vacant. Given the problems in that area, should filling that position be a priority? Apparently not, there is no current job announcement on the CSU website. Finally, I have heard from various administrators about the paperwork bottleneck in the provost’s office; apparently important paperwork frequently goes in and comes out long past the time it needs to be processed, if it comes out at all. Sort of like this: