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Ex-Deans Blow Whistle|on For-Profit School

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - Two former deans claim in court that the for-profit Globe University fired them for blowing the whistle on its misrepresentations to students, including its accreditation status, availability of externships, and a host of other problems.

Heidi Weber and Jeanne St. Claire filed separate, though similar, complaints against the Minnesota School of Business Inc. dba Globe University, in Hennepin County Court.

Weber claims that Globe defamed her after it wrongfully fired her.

Globe and the Minnesota School of Business have campuses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota and are part of the Globe Education Network, which claims to have more than 11,000 students, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. On its home page, Globe claims to be 125 years old.

Weber says in her complaint that Globe fired her after she objected to its "misleading students regarding the guaranteed availability of Medical Assisting externships that defendant knew were not available."

Weber says Globe hired her as an adjunct instructor in October 2008 and promoted her to Network Medical Assistant Dean in 2010. Globe then changed its Medical Assistant Program's accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs to the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, Weber says.

Globe changed its accreditation agency because the school was "unlikely to continue to meet CAAHEP's more stringent accreditation standards," Weber says in her complaint.

She claims that Karan Krna, Globe University's chief compliance officer, "further articulated to plaintiff that that the reason was to get defendant's new schools accredited faster."

Krna is not named as a defendant.

Weber claims she "continually voiced opposition to the change in accreditation to her supervisors for months, verbally and via email. Plaintiff believed that students were being misled because defendant did not apprise students of the potential impact of the accrediting change on post-graduation employment prospects, among a host of other concerns related to defendant's noncompliance with both CAAHEP and ABHES accreditation standards."

Her complaint lists a dozen ways in which she believed Globe was violating even the less stringent ABHES accreditation standards, including:

"Failing to provide continuous education by not having the externship sites available to students";

"Violating Title IV federal student aid programs";

"Failing to ensure that students attain entry-level competencies for the Medical Assisting program";

"Submitting advertising material to the public that is not clear and provable";

"Violating recruiting methods and the ban on commissions for admissions representatives based on enrollment numbers";

"Enrolling students that cannot be reasonably expected to benefit from instruction";

"Failing to disclose circumstances that could affect students prior to their enrollment, most notably the effect a felony could have on their job prospects";

"Requiring students to travel unreasonable distances for their externships without having them agree to it prior to enrollment, in writing";

"Bribing students with free textbooks to keep them quiet for having to travel unreasonable distances for their externships"; and

"Failing to inform and misrepresenting defendant's accreditation status to the public during the switch from CAAHEP to ABHES."

Weber adds that in December 2010, "Allina Health Systems ('Allina') notified defendant that they would no longer accept students for externship placement because of defendant's change in accreditation to ABHES. Further, Allina would no longer consider defendant's graduates for employment for the same reason. This exacerbated the shortage of externships problem."

Nonetheless, Globe University continued to enroll students in the Medical Assistant Program, knowing that qualified externships were not available, violating ABHES standards, Weber says.

On April 26, 2011, Weber says, Jeanne Hermann, Globe's Chief Operating Officer, "proposed that plaintiff consider increasing the number of externships by lowering the standards of placement." Hermann is not named as a defendant.

Weber says she refused Hermann's proposal and told her "that the program was already in violation of numerous ABHES standards and that she would not violate them further by sending students to sites that did not provide opportunities to demonstrate the required Medical Assisting competencies."

Weber says she was fired three days later.

And she says Globe University made derogatory statements about her when it tried to re-establish its relationship with Allina Health Systems.

In a letter written by Krna to Allina Health Systems, Globe University stated the "former dean, plaintiff, took the program in the wrong direction and therefore, she is no longer a concern for the Medical Assisting Program," Weber says in her complaint.

It continues: "This false information damaged plaintiff's reputation by inferring that the negative fallout after defendant switched accreditors was plaintiff's fault. On the contrary, plaintiff vocalized her dissent for months. This letter projected plaintiff in a completely false light to one of the largest medical employers in the State of Minnesota. Further, its contents were disseminated to other employers in the medical community and diminished her professional reputation."

Weber says she was denied employment by four institutions because of her "history" at Globe.

Jeanne St. Claire, who was hired by Globe University in 2009 and eventually promoted to Network Dean of Business, claims she too was fired when she "voiced opposition to Globe's fraudulent inducement of students to enroll at Globe by greatly exaggerating Globe's rate of job placement in the 'business' field."

St. Claire claims she reported Globe's fraud from late 2010 until she was fired in October 2011, but "defendant, however, refused to cease engaging in fraud, and, instead, told plaintiff to mind her own business."

St. Claire adds: "Plaintiff also notified management that Globe would not meet accreditation standards if the accreditation agency, ACICS, was made aware of the problems that Plaintiff had reported."

St. Claire claims Globe told her "no one is going to be telling ACICS about these issues." But St. Claire says she refused to "withhold any of the potentially damaging information" from the accreditation agency.

The plaintiffs seek lost wages and benefits, front pay, and compensatory, treble and punitive damages for retaliation and Whistleblower Act violations.

They are represented by Jacob Frey and Ross Stadheim, with Halunen & Associates.

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