The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 3:33 pm

Wartell-Purdue suit officially over

Rebecca S. Green The Journal Gazette

Just like that, with a one-sentence order from a federal judge, the case of Michael Wartell vs. Purdue University is over.

The federal lawsuit was dismissed officially Friday afternoon, with no disclosure of who paid what to whom beyond both sides handling their own costs.

And for the moment, Purdue University has kept the Trimble Report under wraps and out of the prying eyes of the public.

Purdue officials this week revealed they spent more than $153,000 in legal fees over about 18 months to conceal the $19,000 report, which was compiled after an investigation into the forced retirement of former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell in 2011. 

The Journal Gazette has requested from Purdue both the report and the terms of the settlement reached in the lawsuit, but the university has not yet provided the information.

Wartell was forced into retirement 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 replaced him 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. Shortly afterward, Purdue hired attorney John Trimble as an independent investigator.

Trimble completed his investigation in February 2013 and shared the report with a group of Purdue board members. They found that no discrimination had taken place.

As the state lawsuit worked its way through the courts in Tippecanoe County, Wartell filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination. 

All the while, Purdue refused to disclose the Trimble Report in the Tippecanoe County case. 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 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 secret.

That request was largely the last entry in the federal court docket until notifications this week regarding the settlement in the federal case.

Late Friday afternoon, the docket showed the case as closed.

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