Chicago State University owes its former general counsel $2.5 million, a jury in Illinois found last week. The verdict – $480,000 in back pay and a $2 million punitive damage award – would go to James Crowley, who turned into a whistle-blower after a dispute with President Wayne Watson over disclosure of public records that would reveal when Watson started his job. According to The Chicago Tribune, Watson’s first day on the job was disputed because it would determine whether he was eligible for a pension from his time at another public college.
Crowley said the president threatened him over disclosing too many documents, an allegation Crowley took to the state attorney general. Nearly four years to the day after Watson fired Crowley, the Cook County jury reached its verdict. Crowley's lawyer, Anthony Pinelli, said the judge could increase the value of the verdict by doubling the amount of back pay. The verdict also said Crowley should be reinstated as the university’s top lawyer. Watson is still president.
“Whether that's going to happen or what we're going to do about it, I haven't spoken to the other side about it," Pinelli said. Chicago State plans to appeal, the Tribune reported.
Crowley had been working part time for a law firm, but he was laid off several months ago and is looking for work, Pinelli said. Chicago State is also dealing with recent allegations that its provost, Angela Henderson, plagiarized her Ph.D. dissertation. The university has also gone on the offensive against a faculty-run blog called Crony State Faculty Voice, which has been highly critical of Watson. The blog called the jury verdict in the Crowley case “the Watson Clown Show's latest ethical, fiscal and public relations disaster.”