Report: Ex-IPFW chancellor’s forced retirement bungled

IPFW
(WISH file photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — A newly released report that Purdue University had fought to keep secret concluded that school officials bungled the forced retirement of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne’s former chancellor, causing his departure to turn into an “ugly situation.”

Former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell was forced to retire in 2011 at age 65 under a mandatory retirement age policy.

Wartell sued Purdue, which oversees the 13,000-student Fort Wayne campus, in federal and Tippecanoe County court in 2013, claiming discrimination and harassment by the university under then-Purdue President France Cordova.

He also alleged that Cordova, who recommended in May 2011 that the school’s trustees let Wartell’s contract expire, had a wish to fill more administrative positions with women.

Wartell was replaced in 2012 by Vicky Carwein, who was 64 when she became chancellor and still holds that post.

A recent settlement of Wartell’s federal lawsuit resulted in the release of a report attorney John Trimble had prepared for Purdue on Wartell’s forced retirement. The university spent more than $150,000 trying to prevent the release of that 2012 report.

A copy of the report released Friday shows Trimble found that Wartell’s allegations of discrimination were unfounded after interviewing Wartell, Cordova, trustees and witnesses, and reviewing nearly 250 pages of evidence.

But his investigation found that a top school official should have met with Wartell before any decision was made to explain to him that the “age 65 retirement policy would be enforced,” the Journal & Courier reported.

Instead, Wartell received “a cold call out of the blue telling him that the Board of Trustees had made a decision on this issue,” his report states.

“While I do not condone his threats of litigation against the university and against citizens who exercise their right to express their views about him, this ugly situation did not have to happen,” the report states.

The terms of the federal settlement between Wartell and Purdue are confidential, but both federal and state courts ruled Trimble’s report should be considered a public document — despite Purdue’s contention that it was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Purdue’s legal counsel, Steve Schultz, said in an open letter released in advance of the report that the university still believes “every institution must be able to rely on confidential processes like this when conducting sensitive internal investigations. … This was Purdue’s sole motive in defending the privileged nature of this report.”

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