ILNews

Purdue loses appeal bid to shield discrimination, harassment report

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

An appellate panel had harsh words for Purdue University’s conduct in shielding a report investigating a former chancellor’s complaint of gender discrimination and harassment against former university president France Cordova.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed a Tippecanoe Circuit ruling that Purdue could not argue attorney-client privilege or site the work-product doctrine to block the release of an independent investigator’s report to former Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne chancellor Michael Wartell.

“Purdue frets that recognizing equitable estoppel as an exception to the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine ‘would have a chilling effect on the very principles on which [they] were founded,’” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel in a footnote. “On the contrary, one would hope that it would have a chilling effect on the tactics used by Purdue in this case.”

Wartell filed a formal complaint in 2011 alleging harassment and discrimination against Cordova, claiming among other things that Cordova pointed to a picture of Wartell during a meeting and said, “I am going to replace this one with a woman.” After he reached mandatory retirement age of 65, Wartell was replaced by current chancellor Vicky Carwein.

When Wartell filed his complaint, a process was agreed to by all parties in which an independent investigator would be hired. Indianapolis attorney John Trimble accepted the matter, but Purdue refused to allow Wartell to inspect the report produced after the investigation.

Wartell then sued Purdue, prevailing at the trial court and prompting the instant case, Purdue University v. Michael A. Wartell, 79A02-1304-PL-342.

“Trimble conducted the investigation by interviewing individuals, drafting a report, and submitting it to the Panel (of Purdue Trustees) without disclosing an advocate role,” Crone wrote. “In other words, Trimble conducted the investigation as an independent investigator,” so no attorney-client privilege exists and the work-product doctrine may not prevent disclosure.

But the court ruled that even if Trimble was acting as Purdue’s legal counsel, “Purdue represented to Wartell that it would appoint Trimble as an independent investigator, but then concealed from Wartell that it intended to retain Trimble as its legal counsel; thus, Wartell never had an opportunity to object.

“Based on these facts and circumstances, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in ruling that Purdue should be equitably estopped from invoking the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine as to Wartell,” the court concluded.
 

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

ADVERTISEMENT