Cash-strapped Chicago State University will soon pay off the balance of a $4.3 million check to a former administrator who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the South Side school nearly seven years ago.
After years of fighting the case, attorneys for Chicago State this week said they would pay out a judgment to James Crowley, said Anthony Pinelli, Crowley’s lawyer. Pinelli said he expected to receive the full amount from the bank within days.
In his 2010 lawsuit, Crowley claimed he was fired for exposing questionable contracts and refusing to shield public records that were embarrassing to former CSU President Wayne Watson. A jury awarded him back pay and $2 million in punitive damages in 2014, on top of $330,000 in fees for his attorneys. The tally grew, due to years of interest charges and additional fees while CSU unsuccessfully appealed the case.
Pinelli said attorneys for the school had filed an objection to his recent attempts to survey the university’s bank accounts, then earlier this week called to offer to pay the full amount.
“I didn’t want to ask why, I just wanted to get my client’s money,” Pinelli said.
In January, the school agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit by former chief financial officer Glenn Meeks, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2014.
CSU has sued its insurance company for refusing to pay Crowley’s judgment. A university spokeswoman said that $1.5 million of “university resources” would be used to pay the judgment, and the rest would be covered by insurance.
Crowley has been able to find only part-time work since losing his job at CSU. He has been living off retirement savings , Pinelli said.
“This is not an easy process,” Pinelli said. “It was a tough case . . . but [Crowley] stood up through all of it and never complained.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that James Crowley had received a portion of the $4.3 million settlement amount while his appeal was pending.