How Legal Settlements Work 101

COMMENTARY BY DANNY LEDONNE – 8/31/16

I recently read with interest that I didn’t receive any settlement payment for the lawsuit in which I was the plaintiff, Ledonne v. McClure. According to the Adams State University website, reprinted in the Valley Courier:

Following the public comment segment, Board Chair and Adams State alumnus Arnold Salazar provided background on the settlement. “The $100,000 settlement was for legal fees paid to outside entities by the ACLU. Not one dime was paid to the plaintiff.  [emphasis added]

Imagine my surprise when a figure of such influence as the Board Chair for ASU declared that I was not paid one dime! I double-checked my bank account just to be sure. Yes, I did receive a check from the ACLU Foundation and subsequently made a deposit on July 29th for $64,289.48. ASU Foundation member and SLV Federal Bank CEO Duane Bussey could probably verify this. If my math is right, that is about 642,895 dimes. Huh. So what’s going on here?

imageACLU Deposit

In a technical sense, Salazar is correct; ASU didn’t directly pay me. ASU paid the $2,500 deductible to their insurer, the Hanover Insurance Company who paid $100,000 to my legal counsel, the ACLU Foundation of Colorado, who deducted legal expenses and their standard fee, and then the ACLU cut a $64,289 check for me. But that set of operations would be the case in any legal settlement. So why would the Board Chair emphasize a semantic triviality or worse, attempt to mislead the public on such a straightforward matter?

I suspect that Salazar is attempting to downplay the serious nature of this settlement and its implications for ASU. Not just the very real prospect of diminished reputation for a public university being sued in federal court by the ACLU for civil rights violations, but that someone else out there might just be crazy enough to stand up and challenge ASU’s administration with their own grievances. The thinking goes, “Ledonne must not be an example for others to follow, ergo it must appear as though Ledonne’s lawsuit wasn’t successful.” Given that there have been several wrongful termination cases filed against ASU recently and with more current employees contemplating legal action, the Board Chair’s show of bravado could be understandable. Yet here we are with the campus ban lifted and the ACLU and myself as the recipients of a $100,000 settlement.

Remember when ASU President Beverlee McClure insisted, over and over, that I was a “threat to campus safety,” that I was engaging in “harassment and terrorism,” and that I was on a “watch list for the Colorado State Police?” Sure you do, because it’s all a matter of public record – the same public record that shows no evidence to support any such assertions. Whatever happened to all that? How curious that Salazar has emphasized the mundane aspects of a financial transaction and hasn’t explained, if I were indeed such an imminent threat to campus safety, why the campus ban was lifted at all.file-1

But then again, it may not make a dime’s worth of difference to Salazar. Given that ASU is on academic probation with the Higher Learning Commission for multiple compliance violations, its credit rating downgraded by Moody’s, and ASU being audited by the State Auditor for four years of consecutive operating losses, I agree that ASU has better things to do than count dimes over me.

Salazar was also quoted as saying:

People can blab and blog; I don’t care. To those bloggers, I say, don’t hide behind cyberbullying. Let us have an open and honest discussion about what happened. If you want academic freedom, take academic responsibility for speaking in public.

I wonder if Salazar remembers when I appeared twice before the Board to request an open and honest discussion about what happened, presenting a full and detailed account of my concerns and taking full academic responsibility for speaking in public. Neither time did he meet with me. When I followed up via email with a detailed list of concerns, he ignored me. Twelve days after the second time I spoke to the Board, I was banned from campus without due process over matters that could have been solved without a cadre of lawyers, time-consuming litigation, and bad publicity for a struggling university. So it’s little wonder that others are hesitant to step forward with their concerns after all the continual, actual workplace bullying that’s been going on around the ASU campus for many years.