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In a decision last Friday by a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas jury, Penn was ordered to pay Mark Helpin, a former Penn faculty member, more than $4 million in a workplace dispute centering around a dental clinic he helped start up.

Helpin, a dentist, was employed at the University from 1989 to 2003, during which time he helped to found a dental clinic that specialized in treating special-needs children. Helprin was also the Chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University.

For his work, he was promised 50 percent of the clinic's net profits, which he used primarily to invest back into the clinic, said Patricia Pierce, Helpin's lead attorney.

However, when the University named Marjorie Jeffcoat dean of the School of Dental Medicine in 2003, things changed for Helpin.

"She dishonored the deal," Pierce said. "She wouldn't pay him the 50 percent, and then they banned him from practicing at" the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, with which Penn is affiliated but doesn't own.

Pierce said that Jeffcoat intentionally made Helpin's conditions at Penn so unbearable so as to force him out.

"They ran him out of town," she said.

"Jeffcoat stripped Helpin of his position as chair of Penn's Department of Pediatric Dentistry, repudiated his contract of employment, exiled him from CHOP to offices in the suburbs, accused him of failing to meet teaching obligations, deprived him of secretarial support and banned him from treating long-term patients," according to Pierce and also noted in a press release that was issued on Sunday.

According to Jeffcoat's testimony, Jeffrey Rivest, the former chief operating officer of CHOP, supported her in this effort, Pierce said.

Pierce noted that during the trial the University tried to claim it did not really fire him.

"However, by not paying him and not letting him practice at CHOP, they cut his compensation by two-thirds," she explained.

She also pointed to the fact that special needs children and their families were deprived of Helpin's expertise and the clinic he founded as evidence of the University's misdeeds.

"They are the ultimate victims," she said, "The jury was outraged."

Penn, however, criticized the decision, saying in a statement Monday that administrators "were surprised and profoundly disappointed by the verdict and will appeal."

University spokeswoman Lori Doyle made it clear in an e-mail that University officials would not comment further on the case.

"We are not answering questions about the lawsuit or the verdict," she wrote.

Helpin is currently an Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry at Temple University.

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