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Wednesday, March 16, 2016 3:39 pm

Over $150,000 spent in fight over Wartell

Rebecca S. Green The Journal Gazette

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. 

Wartell was forced into retirement in 2011, when Purdue University decided to enforce, for the first time, its mandatory retirement age of 65 for administrators in high-policy positions.

According to the federal lawsuit, in late 2010 or early 2011, then-Purdue President France Cordova announced in a meeting that, before her term as president was over, she wanted to increase the number of women in the administration. 

In spite of requests that Wartell be allowed to stay on at IPFW, Purdue stuck to its decision and replaced Wartell with a 64-year old woman, Vicky Carwein.

She is still in the position, behind a clause in the retirement policy that does not apply to administrators who have yet to qualify for the university’s minimum retirement benefit.

Wartell filed a complaint against the university in Tippecanoe County court, challenging the retirement and claiming harassment and discrimination. 

Shortly afterward, Purdue hired attorney John Trimble as an independent investigator.

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

While the state lawsuit was pending, Wartell also filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that the school had never enforced the policy on anyone who did not want to leave, including chancellors.

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.

rgreen@jg.net