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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.