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Last updated: Wed. Sep. 03, 2014 - 10:11 am EDT

Purdue insists Wartell case files be kept secret

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Having lost every effort so far to keep the so-called “Trimble Report” under wraps, Purdue University’s attorneys are now seeking a protective order in the case stemming from the 2011 removal of IPFW Chancellor Mike Wartell.

On Tuesday, the school’s attorneys asked a federal court judge to allow them to keep the report secret, or at least parts of it, because of its sensitive investigative nature and argue again that it is protected by attorney-client privilege.

It appears, according to the proposed protective order, the document would be disclosed only to the parties in the lawsuit and kept from anyone else.

But the attorney-client privilege argument hasn’t held up well in previous attempts to keep the report from Wartell’s attorneys in the battle over the former chancellor’s forced retirement.

And their federal request that it not be disclosed to the public is in direct opposition to a state-level ruling that the document is a public record.

Tuesday’s filing, which includes a copy of the proposed protective order, comes just days after U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. said the report should be handed over to Wartell and his attorneys.

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.

Requests from IPFW that Wartell be allowed to stay were denied. Purdue replaced him with a 64-year-old woman, Vicky Carwein, and she assumed his duties in September 2012.

After his forced retirement in 2011, Wartell filed a complaint against the university in Tippecanoe County, challenging his retirement and claiming discrimination and harassment.

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 it was protected by attorney-client privilege.

But a federal magistrate judge ruled in July that the document was subject to discovery and should be disclosed as part of the lawsuit process, according to court documents.

Last week, Miller noted that Purdue seemed to blame part of the issue on Trimble for failing to disclose to Wartell he was working for the university.

Miller said the fact Trimble did not disclose that was proof that he was acting as an investigator, rather than as the school’s attorney.

Apparently undeterred, Purdue’s attorneys asked Tuesday for the document again to be protected.

“Specifically, the Court ordered Purdue to produce a report,” wrote Purdue’s attorneys in their motion. “Purdue believes that the Trimble Report contains confidential, private information, including related to third parties, necessitating a protective order.

“Purdue continues to assert that the Trimble Report is protected by the attorney-client privilege, which Wartell disputes, but to preserve that issue on appeal believes it must seek a protective order for production of the Trimble Report with a confidentiality designation.”

If Purdue is forced to hand over the report to Wartell, his attorneys are prohibited from revealing its contents to anyone else.

If granted, the protective order would prevent either side from disclosing the contents of the Trimble Report to the media or any member of the general public.

The state case remains pending an appeal before the Indiana Supreme Court.

rgreen@jg.net


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