Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The New Looks Just Like the Old: Chicago State Continues to Throw Money Away on Legal Fees

We have a new Board (sort of ) and a new President, however, much remains the same here at Chicago State University. Specifically, our school continues to pour money into the pockets of contract legal firms for purposes that make sense to hardly anyone. Let me explain.

During the Watson era, legal expenses increased dramatically between January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015, Chicago State paid nearly $1.5 million in legal fees to outside law firms. Included among these expenses: $230,000 to defend Wayne Watson in the Crowley suit, plus another $100,000 for the appeal; $62,000 for a firm to handle trademark applications; $27,000 for a firm to do research for the “West Side Campus”; $49,000 to a firm to assist with the dissolution of the old and the formation of the new “foundation”; $26,000 to a firm to investigate the behavior of a dissident faculty member; $92,000 to a firm for threatening the faculty blog with a lawsuit for “trademark infringement” or some such nonsense; and close to $200,000 to defend Watson in the Glenn Meeks suit. Let’s look at the scorecard for these legal efforts. The University lost both the Crowley and Meeks suits, the “West Side” Campus is dead, the University now has the tree substituting for the “A” in Chicago State University protected by trademark, the investigation on the dissident faculty member revealed nothing, the faculty blog continues to operate, and the new foundation is frankly a laughingstock. Not much of a return on a substantial investment.

So things have change, right? Not so much. In Watson’s years, the amounts spent for contract legal services went from $45,000 in 2010 to $110,000 in 2011, $244,000 in 2012, $134,000 in 2013, $569,000 in 2014, $397,000 in 2015, and ended at $125,000 in 2016. Since January 1, 2016, Chicago State has actually kept pace with the Watson administration in its zealous efforts to make the university look petty, vindictive, and penurious (at least when it comes to some employees). Here’s what we’re doing now.

The University has paid $196,624.92 to Akerman LLP; whose partner LaKeisha Marsh serves as CSU Board attorney. Their charge? Fuck over the faculty and staff who were laid off in 2016. They settled with 3 of our people for a low ball total of $34,000 and their jobs back. Their actual lost salaries came to around $123,000, a saving to the University of $89,000. There are still 6 former tenured faculty members who have not been rehired as tenured faculty, two of whom are currently teaching as lecturers. The salaries owed these people under the contract come to $289,000. So, the University has spent $196,642.92 to potentially save $378,000, along the way generating nothing but goodwill from non-affected and affected faculty members.

Next we have Fisher Phillips, the firm defending the University (Wayne Watson) in both the Meeks and LaShondra Peebles suits. Since January 1, 2016, the University has paid $214,467.60 to lose the Meeks case and to continue railroading Peebles by pursuing the University’s bogus criminal charges. This brings the total for these two defenses to over $423,000.

Also lined up to get a ladle full from the CSU gravy train is Husch Blackwell, vigorously defending the University’s right to violate the first amendment. Although this matter could have been settled early at minimal cost, Wayne Watson decided to fight to the death to insure that CSU could silence anyone who dared disagree with the little dictator. The price tag to this point stands at $265,000, with $91,338.14 spent since January 1, 2016.

Schiff Hardin, the firm handling the “foundation” business remains a favorite of the administration. They’ve received $80,083.59 since January 1, 2016, bringing their total since April 2015 to over $125,000.

Finally, we have two interesting firms, doing some kind of unspecified contract(?) work. The first, Jackson Lewis, advertising itself as some kind of labor and employment litigators, has received $92,981.22 since March 2017. The second, Neal Gerber and Eisenberg has received $70,233 for who knows what? I will file a new FOIA requesting those contracts and will report on the results.

Since January 1, 2016, Chicago State has spent over $780,000 on fees to outside legal firms, with $486,722.90 coming since January 1, 2017. I think it likely that by the end of the year Chicago State will have spent nearly as much as Wayne Watson threw away in his most profligate year. This looks like business as usual to me folks.

1 comment:

  1. JacksonLewis is an employer defense firm. They specialize in employment law and union contract negotiations. That should also be read as union busting.

    So the arbitration and union negotiations that have been so difficult and acrimonious probably can be blamed on CSU's contract with JacksonLewis.