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Notre Dame College staff members, South Euclid council member file lawsuit to try to 'save' college

Notre Dame College sign beside a hill with a gothic building in the background.
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
Notre Dame College began classes on the South Euclid campus in 1928. The college officially closed its doors earlier this month; A lawsuit still hopes to save the college, however.

Two Notre Dame College employees and a South Euclid council member have filed a lawsuit against the chair of Notre Dame College’s Board of Trustees, attempting to halt the closure of the college and alleging the trustees failed to act to avert its shutdown.

The college’s last official day of operation was May 2, and the 48-acre campus in South Euclid was recently listed for sale. The lawsuit, filed on April 10 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, now includes an amended complaint filed earlier this month and requests for discovery and an injunction to prevent the college from selling off property and assets.

Faculty member and college donor Peter Corrigan, staffer and head basketball coach Len Barker and South Euclid Council Member Justin Tisdale are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.

The complaint argues Tisdale and the community stand to lose much if the closure of the college is allowed to continue.

“Plaintiff Tisdale is an alumnus of the College and is currently a South Euclid City Council member, where the College is located, which stands to lose a large employment tax base, substantial economic activity, and an impressive site with aesthetic beauty as the result of the College closing,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiff Tisdale is a representative example of both an interested and affected alumni base numbering in the thousands and a representative example of a community of approximately 21,000 which will be deleteriously affected by the closing of the College.”

The suit argues that Board of Trustees Chair Terri Eason was negligent when she allegedly did not provide written permission for a group of benefactors to negotiate on behalf of the college with the Bank of America, to try to pay off the remainder of a $20 million loan.

The college has previously said its past debt and declining enrollment led to its decision to close.

The trustees said they believe they acted diligently to try to save the college, according to a joint statement released Tuesday.

“While we cannot discuss the details of the ongoing litigation, we firmly believe that the actions of our Board have been driven by an unwavering commitment to the best interests of the students we served,” the statement reads. “We witnessed this commitment at our recent final graduation ceremony — a bittersweet moment for our entire school community — and we know that Notre Dame College's true legacy lies in the thousands of successful alumni who embody our values and mission around the world.

“As we move forward, we are actively working to ensure that the campus continues to be an asset to the South Euclid community. As we have updates that we can share regarding this process, we will make sure to do so.”

Faculty Member Corrigan is part of an “informal benefactor group” that’s raised a significant amount of money since news of the closure broke, the suit explains.

“In a short period of time, these Benefactors have succeeded in a substantial amount of fundraising, represented by communications of informal commitments, of substantial size, which, while impressive, if collected, would not be enough, at this time, to eliminate the totality of debt without a fair and reasonable discount,” the suit reads. “To address this, the Benefactors retained professional bank negotiators, who immediately recognized the opportunity to negotiate a discounted ‘offer in compromise’ with Bank of America to eliminate the debt entirely and to allow the College to remain open.”

While Eason had said verbally that the group could negotiate on behalf of the college, the suit notes Bank of America requires written permission, which has yet to be issued.

"The failure to provide written evidence of this allegedly granted authority may be part of a process to delay the efforts to save this College from closing for reasons that would remain to be discovered," the complaint alleges.

Eason and the board of trustees have not yet responded to the suit in court, according to court records.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.