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Judge rules against Purdue on hiding report from Wartell

Wartell

Purdue University cannot claim attorney-client privilege as a reason to prevent disclosure of information related to a complaint filed by former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell.

In an order issued late last month, Tippecanoe Circuit Judge Donald Daniel said Purdue University cannot claim that information uncovered by John C. Trimble was exempt from public disclosure because it was protected by attorney-client privilege or work product.

Wartell was forced out at IPFW in 2011 because Purdue University requires university executives to retire at age 65. Requests from IPFW that he be allowed to stay were denied.

Wartell filed a complaint against the university, claiming discrimination and harassment. Purdue hired Trimble as an independent investigator. The investigation was completed last February and reported to a group of Purdue board members, which found no discrimination had taken place.

But nothing was ever made public, not even to Wartell, who filed requests with Purdue officials and the state’s public access counselor to see the report.

In May, Wartell filed suit against Purdue in Tippecanoe County, demanding Trimble’s report.

Wartell said he was led to believe Trimble was truly an independent third-party investigator and what he discovered was subject to disclosure.

“Wartell had no knowledge … that Purdue engaged Trimble as its attorney,” Wartell’s attorneys wrote in their motion.

Purdue claimed Trimble served appropriately as both the school’s attorney and third-party investigator.

“Trimble was hired by Purdue, paid by Purdue and appointed by (Purdue),” argued Purdue’s attorneys.

Wartell’s attorneys responded that Trimble could have conducted his investigation without having been engaged by the school as its attorney.

After dueling motions and multiple hearings, Judge Daniel’s ruling ordered Purdue to answer questions asked of Trimble and Alyssa Rollock, the school’s vice president for ethics and compliance.

Another hearing in the case is set for April, according to court records.

rgreen@jg.net

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