Search Results

Below are your search results. You can also try a Basic Search.

Coalition to make offer for Penn farm

(11/14/97 10:00am)

Members of a group hoping to buy and preserve a University-owned farm in Bucks County say they plan to present Penn with a "viable" offer for the 211-acre property by next Friday's deadline. After the University put the property on the market last month, it extended the deadline for offers by three weeks in response to an outcry from neighbors, community members and legislators, who worried that a developer would buy the property and change the character of rural, wealthy Upper Makefield Township. The area is about 30 miles northeast of University City. Given to the University in the 1970s by the estate of Monroe and Edna Gutman, the farm carries a price tag of $5.5 million. Two developers have already submitted offers on the property, and University officials couldn't be reached yesterday for comment on those offers. "A lot of people have worked hard on this thing," said State Rep. David Steil (R-Bucks), one of the leaders of a coalition of neighbors and community members seeking to purchase the property. "I'd hate to see their efforts go down the drain." Four neighbors have each pledged $250,000 to the effort, and the township is ready to contribute another $600,000. Pennsylvania's farmland preservation program may also give some money to help buy the land, according to U.S. Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.), who is also closely involved with the campaign to purchase the property. The coalition, led by the Heritage Conservancy -- a nonprofit Bucks County organization that works to preserve land throughout the region and is contributing $50,000 to buy the farm -- hopes to raise enough money to give the University a down payment on the property, and then borrow the remainder of the funds. But the University has not indicated that it's willing to accept such an arrangement. "The University was given the farm with an expectation that we would use it well and apply those resources to the Graduate School of Fine Arts," University President Judith Rodin said earlier this week. "We have a fiduciary responsibility as a result of accepting that gift [to get the best price for the property]." Rodin wouldn't comment on whether the University would change the price or extend the deadline. "We have a number on the table," Rodin said. "And we are giving them time because they've asked for it." Penn hasn't yet revealed the value of the two offers from the developers, nor has it specified the latest price it wants for the farm. Still, the neighbors and groups say they appreciate the University's willingness to work with them. University officials are scheduled to meet Monday with members of the groups to discuss the situation. "[Community members] were very concerned about the future of the property," said Heritage Conservancy President Cliff David Jr. "I think there's much more of a cooperative effort at the moment. We're very happy with the way this is proceeding and we hope that it will work for everyone's benefit." The farm is "roughly divided" into "flat farmland" and a "steeper and wooded [area that] has buildings on it and is not very suitable for farming," according to Greenwood. To comply with state regulations, the group must find people who will use it for farming or a similar purpose that would preserve the property. One person has expressed interest in paying up to $17,000 per acre to use half of the property as a horse farm, Greenwood said. "We're not there yet," he said, adding that he's "very optimistic that we will figure out how to blend all of these interests into a package that preserves the farm."

Officials lack solid plans for loan dollars

(11/13/97 10:00am)

Last week, Trustees approved a $200 million bond issue, but it's not clear what the money will cover. The administration wants some spare change -- $200 million, to be exact -- to fund building renovations and construction over the next few years. And although University Trustees last Friday gave the go-ahead for Penn to borrow the money through an upcoming bond sale, administrators haven't yet earmarked the funds for any specific projects. They also declined to expand on exactly how they came up with the figure, saying only that they weighed the "magnitude" of the capital projects against how much additional debt the University can carry. But officials insist that the University's plan to secure the $200 million is financially sound -- and with long-term interest rates near a five-year low, now is the time to take advantage of market conditions. "Obviously, we wouldn't do it if we thought it was going to have a negative long-term effect on the financial health of the University," said Trustee Robert Fox, one of four Trustees on a committee overseeing the venture. "It just seemed like an opportune time to lock in some good rates." The resolution approved by Trustees last Friday says the money may go toward about 30 buildings and complexes, including Franklin Field, the Perelman Quadrangle and Sansom Common. Fox stressed that the University doesn't immediately need the entire sum. "Nobody's running out to spend the $200 million," he said. To obtain the funding, the University will issue the bonds on a yet-to-be-determined day next month and sell them to whomever makes the best offer. Penn would then invest the funds, expecting to get a large enough return on the investment to be able to repay the bonds while keeping the total amount available for use on the projects. To buy the bonds, investment firms would form groups called syndicates. University rules require it to grant a percentage of the business to minority-owned firms. That percentage wasn't available yesterday. Departments, schools and other University offices would request funds for renovations and construction in their annual and five-year budgets. Each request "will go back to Trustees on a case-by-case basis," according to Executive Vice President John Fry, who said the funds "will be spread over at least half a dozen or more projects." The as-yet-undetermined projects will begin between one and three years from now, officials said. Administrators included nearly every existing project because "if you don't list the project, you can't spend money on it," Vice President for Finance Kathy Engebretson said. Many of the requests could cover projects that alumni donors would be unlikely to fund, such as electrical stations and water chillers. After school or department representatives request their share of funding from the $200 million, "they have to show us that they're going to pay it back over time," Engebretson said. For non-academic projects, the central administrative costs paid by each University division, or "responsibility center," would repay the debts. The University may also use the opportunity to refinance its debt repayment. Penn's outstanding debt stood at $994 million June 30. According to charts presented to Trustees last Friday, the University will repay its debt unevenly over the next 25 years, primarily because of certain loans that are due in about 10 years. Under its current debt-service plan, the University is set to repay about $110 million in 2006 and about $80 million in 2007, compared with about $30 million in 2005 and $20 million in 2008. Although refinancing the debt wouldn't give the University any extra funds, it would "smooth" the repayment process over the next 40 years, Engebretson said.

Lawsuit could block deal with Trammell Crow

(11/12/97 10:00am)

The suit accuses Penn and Trammell Crow of tryuing to reduce benefits. Although Friday's unanimous vote by University Trustees effectively allowed the outsourcing of most campus facilities management to Trammell Crow Co. to proceed, a recent lawsuit still threatens to block the deal. Several University employees sued Penn and Trammell Crow in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia October 23, accusing the defendants of illegally working the deal to reduce employees' benefits. The suit seeks class-action status for the approximately 180 employees who are losing their jobs with Penn and being forced to reapply for new positions with Dallas-based Trammell Crow. Stephen Pennington, an attorney representing the plaintiffs -- three employees, as well as one's wife -- said the lawsuit, if successful, has two possible outcomes: either a judge could invalidate the deal before March 1 -- the date Trammell Crow is scheduled to take over facilities management -- or the judge could award the employees damages in the future. The Trustees' approval "is something, that if you look at the complaint, we anticipated," Pennington said. The suit states that the University told the affected employees that "ratification of the 'outsourcing' agreement with [Trammell Crow] was a mere formality and that the agreement would be finalized on November 7, 1997 at a Board of Trustees meeting." The lawsuit accuses the University and Trammell Crow of violating the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, an employment benefits law that prohibits companies from outsourcing departments specifically to reduce benefits. For the suit to impact the outsourcing deal, the plaintiffs would have to prove that cutting benefits was the sole reason for the deal. Given University promises to maintain most benefits at their current levels after Trammell Crow takes over, that may be a difficult case to make. A judge will decide at a yet-to-be-scheduled pretrial conference whether to certify the case as a class action one, Pennington said. Although neither defendant has filed an official response to the lawsuit, both have recently denied the charges. In a filing last Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trammell Crow said it "believes that it is an improper defendant in this lawsuit and will aggressively seek to be dismissed from the lawsuit." The company didn't elaborate, and officials declined to comment. University officials also declined to comment for this article. In another recent SEC filing, Trammell Crow said it may use some of the proceeds from its upcoming initial public stock offering to cover part of the $26 million it agreed to pay the University as part of the outsourcing deal. The company agreed to pay the University $26 million up-front, as well as $6 million at a later date. Penn will pay Trammell Crow about $5.25 million per year to manage the properties over the course of the 10-year contract. Trammell Crow didn't mention the October 8 Penn agreement in its first SEC filing September 3. There's nothing "very surprising or unusual" about a company redirecting future proceeds from its IPO, said Armando Gomes, a Finance professor in the Wharton School. During the month-long debate following the announcement of the deal, some University employees criticized the real-estate services company for timing the agreement to increase its stock's appeal to potential investors. Although no exact date is set for the IPO, the offering is still scheduled for this week or next week, according to Leigh Pierce, a spokesperson for New York-based Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co., the offering's chief underwriter. The offering's 5 million shares will be priced at between $14 and $16 apiece, according to last Thursday's SEC filing

Trustees approve $200 mil. in loans

(11/10/97 10:00am)

The University's Board of Trustees gave the go-ahead to $200 million in loans, approved numerous job appointments and said goodbye to Provost Stanley Chodorow at its quarterly on-campus meeting Friday in the Quadrangle's McClelland Hall. Thanking his colleagues for "3 1/2 extraordinary years of achievement," Chodorow said he hopes to carry his Penn experience "into my future career." He announced his resignation October 31 in conjunction with his being named a finalist for the presidency of the University of Texas at Austin. University President Judith Rodin, who took office with Chodorow in July 1994, praised him for his "wonderful leadership." "Stan has a tremendous understanding of the meaning and nature of universities -- not only as medieval institutions, although he reminds us often and well that that is the case -- but also in a sense of universities as communities, as places where people learn and grow and cry and come together," Rodin said of Chodorow, a medieval scholar. In other business, Trustees authorized the University to borrow up to $200 million to finance projects such as renovations to buildings ranging from the Perelman Quadrangle to the new Wharton School building, which will be built next year on the current site of The Book Store. Vice President for Finance Kathy Engebretson urged the Trustee Committee on Budget and Finance to borrow money now in order to take advantage of long-term interest rates that are near a five-year low. Associate Comptroller Kenneth Campbell told the committee that "the University is in very good financial shape," noting that the value of its endowment increased to $2.5 billion in June 1997 from $2.1 billion in June 1996, an increase of about 20 percent. Trustees approved $4 million to fund renovations of several facilities at the School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Campus in Kennett Square, Pa. The buildings will be used for genetic research. Also, Trustees approved $2.04 million to fund the final phase of renovations of the Van Pelt Library, bringing the total cost of library renovations to $6.24 million. The funds will go towards refurbishing the first-floor circulation and periodicals areas. In real estate, the University will buy the vacant, 25,000-square foot property at 38th Street and Woodland Avenue for a maximum of $1.2 million. And the Trustees approved the $1.15 million sale of a 22-acre property in Radnor, Pa., bequeathed to the University by Isaac Norris' estate in 1996.

Employee who sued over firing is accused of misusing resources

(11/07/97 10:00am)

A former University employee who recently accused Penn of allowing a professor to test unsafe radioactive material on humans now faces accusations that he himself improperly used his University office to run a private consulting business. Mark Selikson, 47, sued the University in September in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, claiming it fired him last February as director of the Radiation Safety Office in retaliation for exposing a Medical School professor's alleged safety violations. But the University filed a countersuit October 15 denying the charges and claiming it fired Selikson because he used University equipment and employees to run an imaging consulting business, earning about $220,000 over seven years. The findings came from an internal investigation lasting "several weeks," the University claims. Selikson denied some of the charges in his original lawsuit, and his attorneys are filing an official response to the University's suit today, according to his lawyer Bill Haller. "Dr. Selikson believes that his consulting activities in no way conflicted with activities at the University," Haller said, adding that "literally scores" of faculty members and staff have or work for consulting businesses. Hospitals and other businesses that use radiation diagnostic equipment paid Selikson's company, J.A.S. Consulting Inc., to "make sure they're up to snuff" on federal regulations, Haller said. But in order to conduct business, the University charges, "Selikson misappropriated and grossly mismanaged University resources, including time, equipment, employees and other resources, for his own personal gain, permitted the unauthorized copying of software and otherwise breached his duty of loyalty to the University. "The University discharged Selikson for these and other legitimate reasons," University court documents state. Selikson's original lawsuit described the University's claims as "baseless." Additionally, the University accuses Selikson of "attempting to intimidate, harass and otherwise influence RSO employees" during the University's investigation. Selikson's lawsuit, however, describes the investigation as a "seven-week witch hunt" in which officials "resorted to extended interrogations of members of the RSO staff, threatening them with discharge if they did not respond 'properly' to questions concerning Dr. Selikson." A pretrial conference is scheduled for November 17 at 9 a.m. in the chambers of U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Broderick. Broderick is expected to set a schedule for the lawsuit. The case was sent to U.S. District Court October 8 because the University was accused of violating federal law. The two sides dispute whether the case should be heard in Common Pleas Court -- a branch of the state court system -- or federal court, where cases tend to move faster. Selikson's attorneys, who claim the case centers around a violation of state law, filed a motion last week asking for the case to be remanded back to Common Pleas Court. "By discharging Dr. Selikson for carrying out his statutory obligations under federal law, the University has endangered the public health and safety and violated the clear public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," his lawsuit states. But University attorney Alan Berkowitz said that "if a case involves a federal question, then it's entitled to be brought in federal court." "This case really involves interpretations about federal law," he said.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Council pulls together for productive session

(11/07/97 10:00am)

Whether or not University Trustees approve the plan to outsource facilities management to Trammell Crow Co. today, one thing is certain: There can be healthy and civil discussion on campus about important issues facing the University. Wednesday's special University Council meeting defied widespread notions that students, faculty members and staff are generally apathetic when it comes to taking action on the issues of the day. Making powerful use of the body's function as a deliberative and advisory body, Council members called the meeting in the name of open discourse on the Trammell Crow deal. Despite the emotionally charged nature of the issue -- many longtime University employees seeing their jobs vanish and having to reapply for the same positions with Trammell Crow -- nearly everyone kept their composure while arguing their points. Council's overwhelming vote to pass a resolution asking Trustees to reject the deal followed a two-hour discussion in Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge. About 50 Council members -- slightly more than half of the body -- and 60 non-members attended the meeting. Council also voted to form a committee dedicated to examining "the problems that have been raised about the consultative process." Faculty Senate Chairperson Vivian Seltzer described the meeting as "a dramatic and very successful example" of Council taking advantage of its role. "It provided an opportunity for the kind of open communication that all the constituencies are requesting," said Seltzer, a professor at the School of Social Work. Council Moderator Samuel Preston, a Sociology professor, "did a superb job" controlling the discussion, Seltzer added. One-fourth of the body's members, the minimum amount necessary, signed a petition last week calling for the meeting. The move came amid criticism that administrators didn't sufficiently consult the University community before Penn signed a non-binding letter of intent October 8. Council normally meets once per month. Campus discussion hit a low last fall, when, in the wake of a crime wave, officials invited students' parents to voice their concerns with Rodin, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and University Police officials. But the 500-plus people who attended the November 16 meeting were "angry and often unruly," booing Rendell after he suggested that Penn students aren't street smart and that other parts of the city are more dangerous, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported. At least one audience member shouted an obscenity at Rendell. Wednesday's meeting was a markedly different affair. Applause followed only a couple of speeches. Nobody booed when Rodin or Executive Vice President John Fry spoke. And no one muttered an obscenity. "I thought it was a really healthy meeting," Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Chairperson Victoria Tredinnick said. "It was ideal, given the situation." The broad range of participation and the fact that Council took action on an issue stood in contrast to other recent meetings, many of which were poorly attended or debated an issue without making any concrete recommendations. Earlier this year, Council couldn't vote on whether to grant a seat to the United Minorities Council because fewer than 40 percent of members -- the number necessary to vote on changing the body's bylaws -- attended. And last month's meeting featured a lively, one-hour discussion on how to deal with the problem of binge drinking among students. But the session, which Rodin described at the time as "preliminary," produced no official plans or recommendations.

Hiring policy under review

(11/06/97 10:00am)

Trammell Crow Co. is apparently modifying its hiring policy for University employees in order to comply with Philadelphia law prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, according to documents distributed at yesterday's University Council meeting. A document given Tuesday to University employees affected by the outsourcing deal states that Dallas-based Trammell Crow "does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability or veteran status." But in a memo faxed Monday to a reporter for the weekly Philadelphia Gay News, a Trammell Crow official says the company's policy only covers "race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, military status or disability." Penn's own policy specifically prohibits the University from discriminating on the basis of sexual preference in personnel matters. Executive Vice President John Fry told Council that officials intend to "clarify" the policy as it relates to the employees who plan to apply for jobs with Trammell Crow. "[Trammell Crow's] policy, in fact, is to comply with all federal state and local laws where they operate," Fry said. The documents were distributed by Paul Lukasiak, a campus activist who currently works part time as an administrative assistant for the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

Council urges Trustees to nix outsourcing

(11/06/97 10:00am)

Dissenters aired their criticisms at a special meeting of Council. University Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution yesterday asking the Board of Trustees to reject the administration's four-week-old proposal to turn over facilities management to Trammell Crow Co. With many Council members arguing that administrators didn't sufficiently consult the University community before announcing the plans October 8, the campus-wide advisory body approved the resolution by at least a three-to-one margin in a show-of-hands vote. There was no official tally. Council also approved a separate resolution to create a campus-wide committee examining "the problems that have been raised about the consultative process." It was unclear last night, however, whether the resolution would actually convince Trustees to reject the deal in a vote tomorrow. "I can't really say too much about how I feel it will affect the Trustees," said Victoria Tredinnick, chairperson of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, which proposed the resolutions. "But I think there were a lot of clear statements from many different members of the University community [opposing the deal]." About 50 members -- more than half of Council, an unusually high turnout -- attended the special session in Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge, along with about 60 nonmembers. Twenty-five percent of the body, the required number of members necessary to call a special meeting, signed petitions for the rare session last week. Most of the 15 Council members and 10 non-members -- including the leaders of several student, faculty and staff organizations -- who spoke at the two-hour meeting criticized administrators for keeping negotiations with Trammell Crow secret until Executive Vice President John Fry signed a nonbinding letter of intent last month. "The community here is broken," GAPSA officer Matthew Ruben said in a speech near the end of the meeting that brought the afternoon's first applause. "There is an atmosphere of distrust?. There has got to be a structural problem if these lessons learned do not transfer from one office to another." A handful of administrators, however, praised officials for taking action to fix a department that frequently exceeds budget costs, misses project deadlines and has a long backlog of service requests. Barry Stupine, associate dean of administration in the Veterinary School, told Council that the federal government has rejected grant requests for some projects because the Division of Facilities Management quoted too high a price for the job. The University "excels at many things," Stupine said. "Facilities management is not one of them." He added that many faculty members and staff feel "demoralized" by problems within the facilities management division. University President Judith Rodin began the meeting by telling Council that "there has been a great deal of consultation over a long period of time that led to the mandate to control administrative costs," adding that the deal was one "result of that consultative process." She repeated officials' earlier assurances that employees hired by Dallas-based Trammell Crow won't lose benefits, and that increased salaries would make up any difference between their University benefits and what they receive while working for Trammell Crow. Rodin was unavailable for comment after the meeting. One University employee, Richard Cipollone of Physical Plant, leveled a series of personal attacks at Executive Vice President John Fry, accusing him of expanding University bureaucracy while cutting facilities management positions. "Most of the people who are affected by the Trammell Crow deal have been here for years and years," Cipollone said. "We've been doing our jobs. But John Fry has not been doing his. Instead of finding ways to make Penn more efficient, John Fry is? making deals." Fry sat still with a straight face and hands clasped while Cipollone made the short speech. He later emphasized that he doesn't "respond to personal charges." "I don't take things personally," he said. Cipollone is one of four people suing the University and Trammell Crow in U.S. District Court over the legality of the deal. The October lawsuit, which seeks class-action status for the 180 employees affected by the agreement, accuses the defendants of using the deal to reduce employees' benefits illegally. If Trustees approve the 10-year contract, Trammell Crow will pay the University at least $26 million, while receiving annual payments of about $5.25 million to manage the properties. Officials have said the firm will hire at least 110 University employees, who have the first chances to interview for the jobs.

Outsourcing may compel workers to wear new hats

(11/05/97 10:00am)

If Trustees approve the deal, employees will apply for new jobs with different descriptions. If University Trustees approve the proposed Trammell Crow Co. outsourcing deal later this week, many of the 180 employees affected by the agreement will have to apply for positions with different job descriptions, according to documents given to employees yesterday. The six charts and 33 one-page job descriptions indicate that Trammell Crow would reorganize the responsibilities among the top positions and create a common division to handle the finances of both the University's Facilities Management division and its for-profit real-estate arm, University City Associates. The two divisions currently have separate operations. A note in the lower right-hand corner of each chart indicates that it "represents only the types of positions available. The actual number of positions has not been determined." Officials have estimated that Trammell Crow will hire between 110 and 150 former University employees. Under a 10-year agreement signed October 8, the Dallas-based real-estate firm will take over management of Penn buildings beginning March 1. Trammell Crow will conduct on-campus interviews from November 10 to November 24. Executive Vice President John Fry couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, and Trammell Crow officials also weren't available for comment. Under the current setup, Vice President for Facilities Management Art Gravina oversees the departments of Facilities Planning, Project Management and Physical Plant, reporting directly to Fry. The Project Management and Facilities Planning departments handle present and future construction projects, according to descriptions on the Facilities Management World Wide Web site. Physical Plant oversees operations and maintenance. Trammell Crow Higher Education Services Inc.'s Penn account, on the other hand, would be headed by two "alliance directors" in charge of overseeing "campus properties" and "UCA properties." The campus properties director would supervise directors in three areas: facilities services for schools, residential and resource centers; construction and development management services; and maintenance services. It was unclear yesterday how the recently created Housing and Residence Life division would be organized after Trammell Crow takes over residential maintenance duties, because only a minority of its employees are involved with the outsourced maintenance operations. Several University employees affected by the deal said last night they haven't yet had time to review the information from Trammell Crow.

University hires White House lawyer to oversee legal offices

(11/04/97 10:00am)

The University hired a new top lawyer who will oversee Penn's two separate legal offices and report directly to University President Judith Rodin, officials announced Friday. Peter Erichsen, currently an associate counsel for President Clinton, will assume the newly created position of vice president and general counsel of the University and the University Health System, effective December 8. "I think it's going to be a great, challenging job," said Erichsen, 41, who described the issues facing higher education as "tremendously interesting." Erichsen's only prior experience in higher education was in handling some investment transactions for Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., while he worked for the Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray. Erichsen will be chief legal adviser to Rodin, Health System Chief Executive Officer William Kelley, the Health System and the University Board of Trustees. He will also oversee the Office of the General Counsel, which has about six attorneys, and the 12-attorney Health System legal office. Health System Chief Counsel Thomas Tammany said he hopes Erichsen's appointment "will only make my life better." "Health care is a highly regulated industry," Tammany said. "There are legislative changes going on at the federal and state level very frequently." Erichsen's experience "being an insider at the White House" as well as working for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington "will be a tremendous asset to us," Tammany added. But when asked whether he believed Erichsen's new position was necessary, Tammany responded that "it's not really my call to make." Green, who has been Penn's general counsel for more than a decade, said she meets regularly with Tammany. The two offices "have excellent communications" between them but "no formal reporting relationship," she said. "I think [Erichsen's appointment is] a very good move, and I'm looking forward to working with him," Green said. Erichsen said he has not yet been briefed on specific legal matters facing the University. Penn is facing lawsuits in U.S. District Court over an alleged 1994 rape, the April 1997 closing of a local video arcade and the University's recent plan to outsource facilities management, among others. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1981, Erichsen worked at Ropes & Gray for 12 years, primarily in corporate law. He then took a position at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington handling judicial appointments. For the past year, he has been at the White House coordinating the appointment of federal judges and Clinton's Cabinet selections. Rodin was unavailable for comment yesterday. Kelley did not return a telephone call for comment.

Outsourcing may boost efficiency

(11/04/97 10:00am)

Officials maintain that Trammell Crow will hold down management costs. If University Trustees approve the controversial Trammell Crow Co. outsourcing deal later this week, the company will help hold down campus construction costs, respond to maintenance requests faster and know exactly what has happened in any building during a given time period, Penn officials said. Facing criticism for not consulting anyone before announcing the deal and a lawsuit challenging the legality of the agreement itself, University officials yesterday explained their October 8 decision to allow an outside company to manage Penn's buildings beginning this March. But while Penn officials continued to insist that the deal won't cost the University more than it currently spends on facilities management, they have yet to release specific figures comparing costs before and after the deal. Officials opted for outside help in improving facilities management because Trammell Crow's expertise in the field exceeds anything the University could hope to achieve, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Omar Blaik said. Changing Penn's current system from the inside would be inefficient and akin to "re-inventing the wheel," he added. For example, maintenance workers currently work out of a central office which dispatches them to calls in individual buildings. That would change under Trammell Crow, which would base employees in every campus building in order to cut response time and complete more service requests, Blaik said. Residential maintenance "is really an area where we can improve quite a bit," he said, adding that a system in which "we would be more organized close to the customer" could "dramatically" increase efficiency. Blaik, who will remain with the University after the transition, stressed that the Penn officials who negotiated the deal considered recent complaints from administrators and faculty members about the school's facilities management when setting specific standards for Trammell Crow to meet. "In construction, we want to ensure that many of the projects that they deliver for us are delivered on budget and on time," said Blaik, who was hired last March. And while this is Trammell Crow's first foray into higher education, an official at Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank Corp. -- the first client that hired the company to manage its facilities --Esaid the University is putting its buildings in good hands. Trammell Crow allows the company to focus on customer service rather than on maintaining its buildings and bank branches, according to Dennis Rash, a NationsBank senior vice president for real-estate services. That deal was completed in 1992. "They try to be an extension of people in the bank? and try to make the operational side of banking in a branch system not get in the way of business decisions," Rash said. He added that Trammell Crow saves NationsBank "a lot of money," but declined to specify how much. Dallas-based Trammell Crow is paying the University at least $26 million up front for the right to provide the services. Penn would then pay the company $5.25 million per year to manage the buildings. Little else is known about the financial details. Executive Vice President John Fry could not be reached to discuss the deal yesterday, nor could Budget Director Mike Masch. The outsourcing deal will be the subject of a special meeting of University Council tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge.

Remembering Volodya

(10/31/97 10:00am)

One year after University researcher Vadimir Sled was stabbed to death, his Halloween night murder still haunts those who knew him. Much has changed in the year since University biophysicist and biochemist Vladimir Sled was murdered. His fiancee, Cecilia Hagerhall, has returned to Sweden. His colleagues have tried to fill his position. And his young son has returned to live with his mother in New Jersey. But Sled's death last Halloween night continues to haunt the friends, colleagues and family members who knew him best. "I remember him every day, and miss him during every breath I take," Hagerhall said in a recent e-mail. Hagerhall, 33, who returned last April to work at Sweden's University of Lund, declined to be interviewed via telephone for this article. She said she plans to be in Moscow today to visit Sled's grave and stay with his family. He left behind a 13-year-old son, Dima, from his first marriage, as well as his mother and brother. Last Tuesday would have been Sled's 39th birthday. His co-workers threw a small party for him three days before he was killed. It was one of the last times they were able to share such a special moment. The Murder Sled's three alleged killers are in jail now, awaiting a first-degree murder trial that will likely begin early next year, according to Assistant District Attorney Richard Carroll, who is prosecuting the case. Sled and Hagerhall, researchers in the University's Biochemistry and Biophysics Department, were working late last October 31, conducting experiments in their Richards Building laboratories at 3700 Hamilton Walk. "When we finished the experiment, we were hungry and tired and decided to go home quickly," Hagerhall said. They began the trek to 4405 Osage Avenue, a nondescript white house where Sled, Hagerhall and Dima lived in a first-floor apartment. As they walked down the 4300 block of Larchwood Avenue shortly after 11 p.m., a man approached them, according to Hagerhall. "The person who came walking towards us on the sidewalk? made no special impression[;] perhaps he looked a bit depressed, that's all," Hagerhall said. "When he had almost passed us, the attack came very suddenly and totally unexpected. There was no prior threat or demand for money." Hagerhall declined to discuss details of the attack until after the trial. The story, according to police, goes like this: Eugene "Sultan" Harrison, 33, tried to steal Hagerhall's purse. She resisted while Sled fought the attacker. Then Bridgette Black, 26, stabbed Sled five times in the back. The two defendants fled in a car with the third defendant, 30-year-old Yvette Stewart. Police arrested the suspects a couple of weeks after the incident when MAC cameras photographed two of them trying to use Hagerhall's credit cards to withdraw money. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for all three defendants, Carroll said. The Impact Sled's death shook a University community still reeling from local activist Kathy Change's self-immolation a week earlier, the shooting of a student on campus a month earlier and a rash of more than 30 robberies since the beginning of the fall semester. "People were in absolute shock when they learned of his death," said Ilene Rosenstein, director of the University's student counseling service. "The reaction was not different than one would expect -- feeling outraged and angered and a tremendous sense of loss for a very interesting colleague." The loss hit friends and colleagues hard. They described Sled -- whom they knew by his nickname, Volodya -- as smart, witty and friendly, a man who was serious about his research but still found time to joke around. "He was a really nice, wonderful person," said Biochemistry and Biophysics Professor Tomoko Ohnishi, who worked closely with Sled on several projects after he emigrated to the United States from Moscow in 1992. Ohnishi, 66, said nothing like this had ever happened in her 30 years at Penn. She described Sled as a "very good thinker" who "was so happy" about his job and his life. Sled's arrival at the University bridged the geographical and linguistic gap between collaborating researchers at Penn and Moscow State University. He initially helped translate articles from a Russian biochemistry journal into English, Ohnishi said. Although the department has filled Sled's research associate and Hagerhall's post-doctoral fellow positions, his death has left a void -- emotionally as well as academically. "It was a very sad year, extremely sad," Biochemistry and Biophysics Department Chairperson Leslie Dutton, 56, said. "Volodya was not some person who you didn't quite know." Sled and Hagerhall's departures have left the 4400 block of Osage Avenue a little quieter, much to the regret of their former neighbors. Conrad Hamerman, a landscape architect who lives a few houses down from where Sled had lived, fondly recalled hearing the regular sounds of their talking and singing. He added that the couple and their friends formed "a community within this community." "Suddenly, out of nowhere, appears this evil," Hamerman said. "For a long time, there was no more partying." Hamerman grew up in what he called a "liberal" Swiss family in which favoring the death penalty was unheard of. Now Hamerman wants to see Sled's killers die. Safety The murder left Sled's friends and colleagues feeling a bit more concerned about their personal safety, a little bit more cautious when walking at night. People leave the office earlier and come in earlier in order to get the same amount of work done, Ohnishi said. And there's less foot traffic in Sled and Hagerhall's old neighborhood, according to Thomas Papadopolous, 55, who works at the Wurst House Pizzeria at 43rd and Larchwood. "There used to be people walking all night long," he said. The establishment's business has declined about 20 percent since the murder, Papadopoulos added. Other neighbors, however, insist that the area is safe and what happened to Sled was a random act of violence. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jim Mosatter, 64, who has lived at 44th and Osage since 1961. "It could happen anywhere. You can't lock yourself in the house at night." The Legacy Sled's memory will live on indefinitely, thanks to the University-based Johnson Foundation for Molecular Biophysics, the country's oldest biophysics institute. The foundation is sponsoring an annual lecture in Sled's memory. The first speaker will be Andrei Vinogradov, Sled's mentor at Moscow State and a collaborator with the Penn research team. "It was a personal loss" for Vinogradov and the others in Moscow, said Dutton, the foundation's director. "They were close to his family. Of course, it cut this collaborative line off for that time." Vinogradov's son, Sergei, knew Sled for a few years in Moscow but didn't become close friends with him until they began working together at Penn a couple of years ago. "These things just don't go away," said Vinogradov, 30, who still lives above Sled's former apartment at 4405 Osage. Sled's research centered on how cells process energy and the molecular makeup of the cell structures that perform that task. Coming to the University allowed Sled to use an advanced technique known as electron paramagnetic resonance, or EPR, for the first time. The Russian lab he had worked at couldn't afford the equipment, instead relying on their American counterparts to perform the experiments. "He came and he was so happy to learn the EPR technique," Ohnishi said. "He was always saying [humorously], 'This is my dream'." Sled's memory lives on in several yet-to-be published papers that will bear his name as one of the authors. The posthumous attribution seems fitting for a man whose Russian grade-school classmates nicknamed "The Chemist" for his precocious interest in the subject. Dutton and Ohnishi are working on several papers that draw on research Sled did in his final months. Sled's name has already appeared as an author of more than 30 articles, and his research has been cited in many more. "His name carries on," Dutton said.

Statements reveal Sled's final evening

(10/31/97 10:00am)

The alleged confessions of the three suspects shed light on Sled's last minutes. Some facts differ in the alleged confessions of the three suspects accused of murdering University biophysicist and biochemist Vladimir Sled last Halloween night. But the underlying stories are the same: Eugene "Sultan" Harrison apparently attempted to rob Sled's fiancee, Cecilia Hagerhall, and began fighting with Sled after he came to her aid. Bridgette Black then stabbed the 38-year-old Sled to death, while Yvette Stewart waited in the getaway car. The statements, which Philadelphia Police Department homicide detectives said the suspects gave them last November, offer a look into what happened on Oct. 31, 1996, from the defendants' point of view. Harrison, 33, of the 5200 block of Arch Street; Black, 26, of the 5100 block of Reno Street; and Stewart, 30, of the 500 block of North Allison Street are charged with murdering Sled. Assistant District Attorney Richard Carroll has said he plans to seek the death penalty for all three. "I was just swinging the knife, not really trying to hurt him," Black allegedly told police. "I'm so sorry for what has happened. I'm not sorry for having to tell you, or for me going to jail. I'm sorry for killing that man. I didn't even know him." The evening began as Harrison drove the three around West Philadelphia in a stolen, green Buick Skylark that he allegedly started with a screwdriver, according to his statement. The three smoked "a couple bags of cocaine" and bought liquor before heading toward Billybob's restaurant at 40th and Spruce streets, Stewart allegedly said. But they never made it, instead stopping at 44th Street and Larchwood Avenue after Harrison spotted Sled and Hagerhall, who he thought would be easy targets. Wearing a green-and-yellow Oakland A's baseball cap and a jacket, Harrison walked by Sled and Hagerhall with his head down and his cap pulled "down low on my head," according to his statement. When he had trouble wrestling the purse from the 33-year-old Hagerhall, Sled began to fight him, Harrison said. Soon Harrison and Sled were involved in a heated struggle, falling "against a car that was parked there," Harrison told police. "[Sled and Hagerhall] were screaming and yelling for help," Harrison said, and Black came out of the car to silence them. "I took [my knife] out as soon as I got out of the car," states Black's confession. "The man was big and I wanted to scare him. I waved it around, trying to get him away. I was pulling at him with my left hand, and punching him. "I had the knife in my right [hand], and I'm left-handed. It happened real fast. She was on me, he wouldn't let go, and I just poked him. Then at one point, I stopped poking at him, and tried to cut the straps on her purse." "Chaos" filled the car as the three drove away, according to Stewart's confession. Harrison and Black "were both arguing over the pocketbook," Stewart said. "I told Bridgette to get the fuck away from me. Sultan was going to run over her with the car." The problems stemmed from the fact that Stewart knew Harrison and Black, but that Harrison and Black didn't know each other before that night, according to Stewart's confession. Harrison, however, didn't run over Black. Instead, he and Stewart tried to withdraw money from Money Access Center machines using Hagerhall's credit cards. They were unsuccessful, and the machines photographed them, eventually enabling police to arrest them. The three pleaded not guilty earlier this year in formal pre-trial proceedings. The case will likely go to court early next year.

Game room lawsuits will go to trial, judge rules

(10/29/97 10:00am)

A jury will decide the case, as U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Katz denied both sides' requests for summary judgment. Neither the University nor the owners of a local video arcade and laundry have succeeded in proving whether the businesses constitute nuisances or not, a federal judge ruled last week in allowing lawsuits involving the two sides to proceed to trial. U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Katz's two rulings -- denying both sides' recent motions for summary judgment -- mean that a federal jury will decide the entire case. The lawsuits are scheduled to get a trial date after Monday. The owners of University Pinball and University Laundry at 4006-4008 Spruce Street sued Penn and the city of Philadelphia last April, accusing the defendants of illegally shutting down the businesses April 18. The University filed a countersuit claiming that the formerly 24-hour businesses attract crime to the edge of campus. The city settled its part of the case last month when it agreed to pay $60,000 to the Schoepe family -- which owns the establishments -- and admit in court documents that the businesses don't constitute a nuisance and did not receive any nuisance citations before April 18. "[T]he city's stipulations that they do not consider the plaintiffs' businesses to be a nuisance? do not preclude the consideration of that issue by this court or a jury," Katz wrote. "Factual issues remain as to whether University Laundry and University Pinball do constitute either a public or a private nuisance." Last Friday, the University filed a motion to bar mention of the city's settlement from the upcoming trial. Katz has not yet ruled on the motion. "To put it bluntly, it appears that plaintiffs wrested certain key admissions from the city defendants -- with the hope that these admissions would be admissible against the nonsettling University defendants at trial -- as the price for achieving a financial resolution that was attractive to the city," states a University court document supporting the motion. University attorneys claim the settlement represents "inadmissible hearsay" that doesn't pertain to the current case between the Schoepes and the University. Schoepe attorney Ronald Shaffer was unavailable for comment yesterday, as was University attorney Roger Cox. In a separate ruling, Katz ordered University attorneys to turn over minutes of 40th Street Action Team meetings. The group of administrators and students is attempting to improve the 40th Street corridor between Sansom Street and Baltimore Avenue. The team was formed last November by Executive Vice President John Fry, who gave a deposition in the case September 15. Fry and other University officials met with Robert Schoepe in October 1996 to discuss safety issues concerning their businesses. Katz also voided a University motion to limit the use of University President Judith Rodin's videotaped deposition of October 17. Shaffer had written the judge that the "plaintiffs do not intend to use Dr. Rodin's deposition for any purpose other than this litigation." The Schoepes sued the University and its chief spokesperson, Ken Wildes, in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court for libel and slander over comments Wildes made in the May 8 issue of the weekly University City Review. The University filed a countersuit similar to the one filed in federal court. The libel case won't get a trial date until December 1998. University Pinball and University Laundry reopened April 25 under a court order on the condition that they remain closed between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day

Supreme Court case could pave way for Trammell Crow lawsuit

(10/28/97 10:00am)

Last week, a group of University facilities employees sued Penn in federal court, challenging the University's plan to outsource their jobs on the grounds that the University and the outside company conspired to lower their benefits, violating the law. If they had filed such a lawsuit one year ago, a judge would've thrown it out right away, experts said. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, however, has eliminated that possibility. That means the employees, who sued the University and two units of Trammell Crow Co. in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, will now have the chance prove what they claim. But that may not be an easy task, employment-law experts said. "If you're filing a suit, you've got to still prove that the intent, that the reason for the outsourcing was to deprive you of your attainment of benefits," said Mary Ellen Signorille, a staff attorney for the American Association of Retired Persons in Washington. Signorille wrote a brief supporting the plaintiffs in Inter-Modal Rail Employees Association v. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Co., the case attorneys for the University employees say provides the basis for their suit. The employees' suit falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a federal law governing employee benefits. "It's very rare where the only [reason for outsourcing] involved was benefits," Signorille added. University General Counsel Shelley Green said yesterday that the employees' "complaint is entirely without merit." A spokesperson for Dallas-based Trammell Crow declined to comment. Although the Supreme Court last May ruled in the Inter-Modal case that employers can't outsource workers to lower their pension and health benefit obligations, the court didn't question the general legal foundations for outsourcing, experts said. "The court ducked most of the hard issues and left them up to the remand," said Marc Machiz, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor. In its decision, the Supreme Court sent Inter-Modal back to the District Court in Pasadena, Calif., where it is still in early pre-trial stages. No court date has been set. But Inter-Modal isn't a smoking gun for invalidating outsourcing deals, Signorille and other experts said. The case merely forbids judges from throwing out similar lawsuits based on previous interpretations of the law, the experts said. The Inter-Modal case began when outsourced cargo-transporters sued their former employer, accusing the company of trying to duck their pension and health benefit obligations to the employees. The first judge to hear the suit threw out the case, but the Court of Appeals ruled that the relevant section of ERISA applies only to pension benefits. On further appeal, the Supreme Court clarified that the law covers pension and health, or "welfare," benefits. Jumping on that decision, attorneys for the three University employees and one employee's spouse -- who seek class-action status for the approximately 175 managers and support-staff affected by the deal -- claim that the University and Trammell Crow rigged the agreement "for the purpose of depriving University employees and beneficiaries of pension and welfare benefits," according to the complaint. The employees' case may rest largely on circumstantial evidence, depending on what happens during discovery, the period in which attorneys exchange relevant documents, Signorille said. James Parrot, a St. Louis attorney who represents the Inter-Modal plaintiffs with attorney Richard Schwartz, said the decision was "more narrow than we hoped for" but insisted that "it sends a message" to employers. And if there's evidence that officials broke the law, "somebody good will find it," he added.

U. breaks down General Fee

(10/28/97 10:00am)

The Athletic Department gets $4.12 million. The Undergraduate Admissions office receives $3.07 million. And about $2.34 million goes to Student Health Services. Those are the three largest annual expenditures from the approximately $28 million in revenues that come from the so-called General Fee, according to official figures released yesterday. Under pressure from student groups in recent weeks to show how the General Fee is distributed, University officials provided the Student Activities Council and The Daily Pennsylvanian with a detailed breakdown of where the money goes -- almost entirely to fund student services, activities and groups. University Budget Director Mike Masch said General Fee revenues do not form a single, University-wide budget. Instead, various University divisions make their own budgets and get portions of their funding -- anywhere from 1 percent to 100 percent -- from the General Fee, Masch said. "The General Fee is a resource that the central University administration controls," Masch said. "Basically, it exists to give us the flexibility to fill in the funding for those things that might not get funded otherwise." In addition to their tuition, all of the approximately 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students pay amounts ranging from about $1,000 to $2,000 apiece to the General Fee fund, according to Masch. All undergraduates pay the same amount -- about $2,000 per year. Nearly half of the General Fee expenditures fall under the broad category of "Student Services." About $12.9 million, or 46 percent of the total fee revenues, goes to fund 81 percent of this part of the Vice Provost for University Life office's budget. Indeed, the VPUL division, which is mostly oriented toward student life, receives 91 percent of its funding from the General Fee. The student service funds go toward about 50 different offices, programs and services, according to figures from the Office of Budget and Management Analysis. The top-five funding recipients under the Student Services category are Student Health Services, with $2.34 million; Career Planning and Placement Services, with $1.81 million; Counseling and Psychological Services, with $1.26 million; Academic Support Programs, with $1.16 million; and Residential Programs and Services, with $1.13 million. Central budget administrators do not play a major role in determining how the money is spent once it reaches these offices. The General Fee is distributed among 12 self-budgeting University divisions known as "responsibility centers," officials said. Each center must work on its own to maximize use of the funds it receives. In addition to Student Services and the Athletic Department, funds go to the VPUL for student activities, the Annenberg Center for student performing arts and the Office of International Programs for Study Abroad and other programs. Student Financial Services gets about $1.46 million, or 5 percent of the General Fee revenues. Student government and student activities -- including the Undergraduate Assembly, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and SAC -- receive about $1.43 million. Other offices and centers receiving General Fee funding include the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, with $400,000; the Penn Women's Center, with $275,000; and CUPID, the annual one-stop center for student services at the start of the fall semester, with $71,000.

Employees sue Penn, Trammell Crow over deal

(10/24/97 9:00am)

The suit alleges that Penn and Trammell Crow illegally worked the outsourcing deal in order to pay fewer benefits. and Tammy Reiss The plan to turn facilities management over to an outside firm ended up in court yesterday, as expected, when a group of University employees sued Penn and Trammell Crow Co., alleging that the deal's goal was to avoid paying benefits to the workers. The University signed a letter of intent October 8 to outsource management of all on- and off-campus buildings to Trammell Crow. The suit, which seeks class-action status for the approximately 175 employees affected by the deal, was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, according to Stephen Pennington, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "In our view, there is a substantial difference in the benefits that Penn employees receive now and that employees hired by Trammell Crow will receive," he said. University spokesperson Ken Wildes and Associate General Counsel Brenda Fraser declined to comment. Trammell Crow officials did not return phone calls. Trammell Crow Corporate Services Inc. and Trammell Crow Higher Education Services Inc., the units that would provide the services to the University, are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. To maintain their positions once the Dallas-based company takes over, University employees will have to interview with Trammell Crow next month. Officials expect the company to hire about 75 percent of the affected workers for 110 to 150 positions. "Those 'outsourced' employees who are offered employment by TCCS/TCHES will receive substantially fewer pension and welfare benefits than those to which they would be entitled under the current University plan," the complaint states. Pennington wouldn't say how much the plaintiffs thought the benefits plans would differ. Employees' spouses will lose tuition benefits after next spring, Executive Vice President John Fry said earlier this week. Children's benefits will be extended indefinitely -- past the 2001 cutoff date set when the deal was announced -- at a cost of $4 million to $5 million to the University, Fry said. Also, the University and Trammell Crow will increase hired employees' base salaries to make up for any differences in medical and dental benefits after the transition, Fry said. Attorneys for the group claim the defendants violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a federal law governing employment benefits, by conspiring to reduce the employees' pension, medical and tuition benefits. The law is commonly known as ERISA. The plaintiffs seek a declaration that "the policy and practice of defendants violates ERISA," in addition to unspecified damages. The plaintiffs' attorneys said the case is similar to one that came before the U.S. Supreme Court last May. In that case, Inter-Modal Rail Employees Association v. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Rail Co., the court unanimously ruled that employers couldn't fire workers in order to lower the cost of their benefit plans. But employment-law experts said the plaintiffs have the burden of proving that the defendants signed the agreement specifically to decrease benefits and for no other reason. "If you have the right facts, [the Supreme Court decision] gives employees a new weapon in their arsenal, or the ability to put the brakes on employers," said Jane Rigler, a professor at the Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle. In a guest column in yesterday's Daily Pennsylvanian, Fry stressed that the outsourcing deal will streamline operations and increase the "quality and efficiency" of facilities management services. Rigler said those reasons sounded "entirely legitimate" to her. "Well-counseled employers are going to be careful about how they characterize what they're doing," Rigler said. Susan Hoffman, a Philadelphia attorney who defends ERISA litigation, said Inter-Modal was a "limited" decision that has nevertheless spawned "all sorts of lawsuits." "There's a big difference between stating a claim and proving a case," Hoffman said. "The Inter-Modal case is so new that it's too soon to tell whether anyone [who files a similar lawsuit] will succeed." Employees affected by the outsourcing protested the decision in an open College Green rally yesterday afternoon, where they also circulated petitions in support of the lawsuit. About 50 people attended the rally, and protesters tried to flag down passing students on Locust Walk to sign the petitions. The employees will hold at least one more rally prior to the November 7 Board of Trustees meeting, when members are expected to approve the final version of the agreement, according to John Hogan, an officer in the University's support-staff organization, the A-3 Assembly. Members of the "Save Our Jobs Committee" -- formed Monday -- said they hope their protest efforts will cause trustees to turn down the deal. The petitions protest both the contract with Trammell Crow and the University's failure to consult with campus and community groups before signing the letter of intent. "We're going to get these names to the trustees to show them how we feel about this deal," said Rashida Abdu, a Housing and Residence Life employee whose job is affected by the deal. Plans for the rally originally included a visit from Pennington, who was going to share information about the lawsuit with the employees. But Pennington was unable to attend, Hogan said. Employees said the outsourcing would affect the entire campus community, and that students and other staff members should consider its implications. "We're concerned about the next wave," said James Gray, co-chairperson of the African-American Association, a group of faculty members and staff. "There are moral issues involved here." And Engineering graduate student Jason Eisner said he's "concerned about cases where the University acts without consultation." Members of student groups, including the Undergraduate Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, have expressed support for the employees and have said they will help in the protest efforts. Fry has scheduled a pair of open two-hour information sessions on the agreement. The first will take place Monday at 2 p.m. in the Steinberg Conference Center's second-floor Sweetbaum room. The second is scheduled for the following Monday at 4 p.m. in the building's second-floor Hattersly room. The plaintiffs named as class representatives in the suit are University employees Richard Cipollone Sr. of Swarthmore, Donald Calcagni of Levittown and Lisa Karnincic of Philadelphia. Calcagni's wife, Linda, is also named as a plaintiff because she receives benefits including tuition reimbursement as a result of her husband's job, the complaint states.

Rodin's driver's lawsuit motors ahead

(10/23/97 9:00am)

Part of a $3 million lawsuit accusing the University of illegally searching the car of University President Judith Rodin's former driver and bodyguard can proceed to trial, a federal judge ruled recently. Donald Gaines, hired as Rodin's driver and bodyguard in April 1995, was fired in March 1996 after University Police found a gun and marijuana in his car, parked in the University-owned garage at 38th and Walnut streets. He was never charged with a crime. Gaines sued the University, accusing officials of conspiracy, invasion of privacy, causing emotional distress and violating his civil rights. In an October 6 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Newcomer dismissed the conspiracy and invasion of privacy claims, as well as some civil rights charges. But Newcomer allowed several other civil rights claims and the emotional distress charges to proceed against the University and Rodin. Newcomer also ruled that Gaines couldn't name the University Police Department as a defendant, because it was legally the same entity as the University. "My client is very happy that the main constitutional essence of the complaint survives as against the main defendants," said Marc Perry, Gaines' attorney. "He's ready to proceed and take it to court." University spokesperson Ken Wildes did not return phone calls for comment yesterday. Gaines and his wife, Joyce, filed the lawsuit May 13 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, naming as defendants the University Police Department, then-University Police Officer John Washington, the University, Rodin and her chief of staff, Stephen Schutt. Washington, who searched Gaines' car, was promoted to sergeant in May. Gaines, a 23-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, claims that University Police officers were out to get him because they wanted Rodin to hire a guard from within the department. After Gaines parked his car on Feb. 26, 1996, Washington searched the vehicle and its trunk, discovering Gaines' unloaded weapon and three hand-rolled marijuana cigarettes. Gaines had a permit to carry the revolver. The lawsuit charges that the search was committed without probable cause. The incident forced the Gaineses to file for bankruptcy, and University officials humiliated Gaines in the press, he charges. In allowing parts of the suit to proceed, Newcomer ruled that Gaines "sufficiently alleged" that his supervisors, the University and Rodin, could be held liable for illegally and unconstitutionally searching his car. But Newcomer dismissed Gaines' invasion of privacy claims because state law require a plaintiff to file such a claim within one year of the alleged violation. A pretrial conference is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. next Tuesday in Newcomer's chambers. No trial date has been assigned yet.

Trammell Crow due for stock release

(10/22/97 9:00am)

Some employees have expressed cynicism about the deal's timing. The University's recent decision to outsource management of all its buildings to the Trammell Crow Co. happens to coincide with the company's initial public stock offering. That's caused some of the 175 University facilities managers and other employees affected by the deal to accuse the Dallas-based company of being more concerned with its public image than with the livelihood of the people it plans to hire -- or not hire -- in a couple of months. The Trammell Crow deal has garnered attention from national media. A recent Wall Street Journal article that said the "landmark" agreement could lead to a multitude of such arrangements in higher education. Some University employees say Trammell Crow, which manages the nation's largest real estate block, timed the agreement to increase the company's appeal to potential investors. But Trammell Crow officials, stressing that federal securities regulations prevent them from discussing the stock offering, said they didn't understand how the employees saw a connection between the agreement and the stock offering. "I don't see the correlation," said John Maher, executive vice president of Trammell Crow Corporate Services. "The spirit of our agreement is to improve the services?, raise customer service levels [and] provide better training and skills for the employees." University Trustees are expected to approve a final version of the agreement at their November 7 meeting. Trammell Crow would then take over management of all on- and off-campus University properties on March 18. Trammell Crow's IPO is due the second or third week of November, according to Leigh Pierce, a spokesperson for New York-based Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co., the offering's chief underwriter. Several employees voiced concerns about the IPO at a town meeting Monday. Trammell Crow and the University kept employees in the dark about the agreement so the company could sign a letter of intent before employees got a chance to protest, said John Hogan, an officer of the University's support-staff organization, the A-3 Assembly. "[Employees] shouldn't be concerned about [the IPO] directly," Hogan said. But the company seemed "hurried to get this deal done? and that's part of the reason for this secrecy," he added. In documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission September 3, Trammell Crow doesn't give a date for the offering or the number of shares that will be offered. That information, along with the initial share price, has not yet been determined, said Trammell Crow Senior Vice President Barbara Bower. A-3 Assembly Chairperson Donna Arthur admitted that "none of us have the facts to prove" a connection between the IPO and the company's agreement with the University, but many employees believe the offering has compromised their chances of keeping their jobs. Trammell Crow expects to use part of the estimated $67.8 million in proceeds from the offering to repay about $37 million of its debt, according to the filing. The company's revenue hit $255.5 million in 1996, a 12 percent increase from the $227.2 million revenue in 1995. Revenue for the first six months of 1997 was $130.3 million. As part of the outsourcing deal, the company will have to pay Penn $26 million nearly immediately and another $6 million later. University employees would get first crack at the jobs with Trammell Crow, officials have said. The company expects to hire between 110 and 150 of the 175 University employees affected by the deal.

Angered workers will file lawsuit

(10/22/97 9:00am)

Employees will file a suit challenging the Trammell Crow deal later this week. A group of University facilities managers alarmed by Penn's recent decision to outsource their positions expects to file a lawsuit against the University in federal court tomorrow. The suit would accuse the University of violating a federal law prohibiting employers from firing workers to avoid having to pay them benefits, according to Stephen Pennington, the Philadelphia attorney representing the employees. University spokesperson Ken Wildes did not return phone calls in reference to the suit. "It's our belief that the outsource is an attempt to avoid paying the pension and welfare benefits that these employees are entitled to under the pension and benefit plan," Pennington said. Pennington added that he expects to file a lawsuit tomorrow in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia seeking class-action status. The move would allow the suit to represent all the affected Penn employees. The employees hope to get a temporary restraining order blocking the deal, Pennington said. Under an October 8 agreement, Trammell Crow Co. will take over management of all University buildings as of March 18. University Trustees are expected to approve the final version of the agreement at their November 7 meeting. The affected University employees have to apply and interview with Trammell Crow in order to be eligible for the new jobs. Only about 75 percent of the University employees are expected to be offered new jobs, officials said. For those employees who do maintain their jobs, University Executive Vice President John Fry yesterday clarified how the tuition reimbursement policy will change. Employees' spouses will lose their tuition benefits after next spring, he said. But children's benefits will be extended indefinitely -- past the spring cutoff date set when the deal was announced -- at a cost of $4 to $5 million to the University, Fry said. Regardless of the benefits situation, many employees are angry that administrators didn't consult them while the deal was being negotiated. The employees' legal challenge falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a complex law that governs employee benefit plans. The University employees' case is similar to one that came before the the U.S. Supreme Court last May, Pennington said. In that case, Inter-Modal Rail Employees Association v. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, the court unanimously ruled that employers couldn't fire workers in order to lower the cost of their benefit plans. Employees rehired by Trammell Crow would have health and pension benefits plans that differ from these offered by the University. But Trammell Crow officials have emphasized that the benefits will be similar to Penn's plans