Representatives for a former Northwestern research director will appear today in court for a breach of contract suit against the university.
Moshe Shalev, who served as director for the Center for Experimental Animal Resources, which became the Center for Comparative Medicine, claims he was fired three years before his contract ended. He is seeking compensation from NU for lost wages, job search costs and benefits. He worked for NU from September 1999 to March 2002.
The case goes before Judge Allen Goldberg today for a pre-trial scheduling conference. After the conference the plaintiff and defendant will begin discovery, a process that collects case evidence in the form of documents, depositions and interrogatories. Shalev’s attorney, Laurie Wasserman, said it is likely the case will not go to trial for another few years.
Thomas Cline, NU’s general counsel, said the lawsuit is a straightforward breach of contract case and does not relate to current research problems at the university. The university is undergoing an internal and external research audit and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have released three reports in the past year requiring NU to clean up its research and address compliance problems. The university
The investigation is focused on the treatment of animals. the USDA is looking at possible mistreatment of monkeys and pigs, as well as improper staff training and record keeping.
At NU Shalev implemented staff training procedures and policies to ensure proper animal care. He also standardized forms and procedures and assisted in research. The university maintains that Shalev was terminated because of poor job execution.
“Northwestern’s position is that Dr. Shalev was removed as director because of unsatisfactory performance after repeated verbal and written counseling,” Cline wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.
Still, Wasserman said it is likely the discovery process could reveal evidence that Shalev’s knowledge of research-related problems contributed to his dismissal.
“I think the reasons why (Shalev was fired) will relate to deficiencies he brought to the attention of the administration,” Wasserman said.
Shalev worked closely with the animal component of the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects, which reviews NU researchers’ protocols, Wasserman said. Some former employees have said workers who mentioned unlawful conduct to NU officials were fired or pushed out.
Cline wrote that Shalev might have been involved with some problems the USDA is investigating.
“Some of the issues being looked at by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture do involve matters that occurred during Dr. Shalev’s tenure as CCM Director,” Cline wrote. “NU, through the Office of the VP for Research, has been working with the USDA to address the agency’s concerns.”
Wasserman said it is possible some information was hidden from Shalev when he was at NU.
“The fact that he was there doesn’t mean he was involved,” Wasserman said. “I would suggest the problems predated Shalev working at Northwestern.”
Before coming to NU, Shalev served at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York for 25 years. He has a doctorate in veterinary medicine and has administered animal usage programs. He declined to comment on the case.