Attorney of fired Globe dean: University targeted whistleblower

Herrmann (Globe/MSB)

In the whistleblower trial involving Globe University-Minnesota School of Business, the attorney for former dean Heidi Weber suggested executives unfairly singled her out for punishment.

Weber, former dean of the medical assistant program, filed a whistleblower lawsuit last year complaining about misleading practices at the for-profit college. She claims she was fired because of it.

A key Globe official in the matter, chief operating officer Jeanne Herrmann, told Weber’s attorney Monday that the former dean was the only Globe executive to lose her job in relation to deficiencies in the medical assistant program — even though other officials may have been more directly involved in it.

Weber’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, presented an April 2011 email he said showed that Herrmann wanted to find “dirt” on Weber so Globe could fire her. In the email, Herrmann told Globe’s regional directors, “I need specific examples where Heidi did not meet the expectations of her position in the past few months.”

When Halunen asked Herrmann whether she had ever made such a request about other employees, Herrmann said she couldn’t specifically recall another.

She said she made the request at the request of provost David Metzen, and that the information was supposed to back up complaints they’d heard about Weber at various Globe campuses.

Globe attorneys have suggested Weber had been late for meetings, missed others and had not answered requests for information. Globe attorneys showed one email in which a Globe staffer expressed irritation over lack of a response by Weber. Attorneys did not cite other emails, but appeared to submit the results of Herrmann’s survey of regional directors.

Halunen’s questioning suggested he thought Globe had jumped the gun in its investigation and firing of Weber. Herrmann told him she did not try to check Weber’s most recent performance evaluation for information, did not ask Weber about why she’d been late for meetings, and did not recommend that Weber first be put on a performance improvement plan. Herrmann said Globe had fired two other officials without first giving them a performance improvement plan.

Herrmann once appeared to give a conflicting view of Weber. A February 2011 email she wrote to Weber’s supervisor stated, “I feel like concerns with professionalism of our students … may be a reflection of leadership,” which included or indicated Weber. But she told Weber’s attorney that the problem was not the dean’s fault.

In other questioning, Herrmann said Weber expressed concern to her about the suitability of some externship sites, as well as the distances some students would have to drive to reach them. But she said Weber never told her she thought Globe’s information or actions were fraudulent.

The trial could end today after the testimony of two top executives from the school.