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.
Judge upholds verdict in
case Chicago State
By Jodi S. Cohen and Stacy St. Clair
Judge upholds $3 million whistleblower judgment against
Chicago State University
Cook County judge Thursday upheld the verdict in a
landmark whistleblower case against ,
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
In a 44-page, harshly worded opinion against
, 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. Chicago State
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,"
history of public corruption makes such awards necessary.
"The public has been made aware of questionable misconduct at
and the public may hold the responsible officials accountable so as to deter
any future misconduct," he wrote. Chicago State University
The jury deliberated for 30 minutes in February before ruling in favor of
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
salary had been $120,000 a year.
"Potentially, the clock on what
continues to get in this case continues to run unless they reinstate him,"
attorney, Anthony Pinelli. "The verdict has been upheld in its
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. Chicago
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,
also claimed the trial judge committed errors and the state's whistleblower law
was wrongfully applied. Chicago State
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"
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,"
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."
The university argued he was fired due to improper financial dealings and misuse of university resources.