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Monks ask court to clarify the By-Laws of Benedictine University

Posted by Abbot Austin on June 22, 2015 at 10:10 AM

MEMBERS OF BENEDICTINE UNIVERSITY FILE SUIT AGAINST

INSTITUTION’S TRUSTEES FOR DENYING RIGHTS GUARANTEED IN BY-LAWS

Monks of St. Procopius Abbey Seek Resolution of Dispute

About Interpretation and Application of Longstanding Governance Principles

 

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027, Jamie@newspros.com

 

June 22, 2015, Wheaton, IL – Seven monks of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, IL, today filed suit against Benedictine University’s Board of Trustees and the institution’s current president William J. Carroll in Illinois’ 18th Judicial Circuit Court in DuPage County.

 

The Complaint asserts that the Trustees and President have denied and continue to deny the monks their rights as Members of the University, including the right to approve the election of Trustees, the right to amend and/or approve parts of the University’s By-Laws, the right to approve the University’s new president, and the right to have any conflict of interest disclosed to the University’s Board of Trustees.

 

The monks are represented in the matter by John R. Wiktor, M. David Short and David A. Maas, attorneys in the Chicago office of Reed Smith LLP.

 

Today’s filing comes on the heels of the Benedictine Trustees’ June 10 announcement that Michael A. Brophy, Ph.D., president of Marymount California University, had been selected as the University’s next president, replacing Carroll, who announced in January he was leaving the school’s top leadership role after 20 years.

 

“Our monastic community has a long tradition of participating in the governance of Benedictine,” said St. Procopius’ Abbot Austin Murphy, who is also Benedictine University’s Chancellor. “The Members’ rights to participate in and to be informed about significant matters affecting this institution are detailed in the By-Laws of the University, which is an Illinois nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, the Trustees have recently ignored these rights and made key decisions without involving us. Although for more than three years, we have tried in good faith to resolve these issues, the present impasse leaves no viable option other than to resolve these ongoing disputes with this legal action.”

 

Benedictine University was founded in 1887 as St. Procopius College by St. Procopius Abbey’s Benedictine monks. The institution changed its name to Illinois Benedictine College in 1971, and to Benedictine University in 1996.

 

The plaintiffs -- Abbot Murphy, Prior Guy Jelinek, Subprior Gregory Perron, Father Thomas Chisholm, Father James Flint, Father Philip Timko, and Brother Kevin Coffey – are the Members of Benedictine University, as well as the members of the Board of Directors of St. Procopius Abbey’s nonprofit corporation.

 

According to the Complaint, although the Members have significant legal rights and an oversight role in the University’s leadership and governance, including the election of trustees and changes to the University’s By-Laws, they were also denied their right to approve the most recent Trustee re-election in April, and were prevented from interviewing candidates and voting in the recent presidential selection process.


“I do not object to the selection of Dr. Brophy as the next president, but we do strongly object to the process by which he was chosen. The members were not even allowed to interview the candidates for the position,” said Abbot Murphy. “The exclusion of the Members from this important process is contrary to our governance policies and this pattern of behavior by the current Board of Trustees must be remedied immediately.”


“The Members are perplexed by this situation because twenty some years ago, our current president, Dr. Carroll, was elected in accordance with the procedures set out in the bylaws as we interpret them,” said Brother Guy. “We’re not sure why the change in process has taken place.”


The Declaratory Judgment Action asks the Court for a finding that the monks, in their roles as Members of the University, have certain rights provided by the By-Laws which need to be followed and enforced. Those rights include approving the re-election of Trustees; approving new Trustees; approving the election and appointment of the University’s president; the unilateral right to amend Articles III and IV of the By-Laws and to approve other amendments to the By-Laws initiated by the Trustees; and that current Trustees must disclose to the Board possible conflicts of interest and past or present conflicts of interest not previously disclosed.


“We are confident the best interests of Benedictine University will be served by a court clarifying the rights and obligations of the monks of St. Procopius as Members in the governance structure of the University,” said Short of Reed Smith. “A decision will provide firmer ground upon which to build a solid relationship between the Members and Trustees as this great University moves forward.”


About St. Procopius Abbey


The monastic community of St. Procopius Abbey comprises 25 men dedicated to seek and serve God as Benedictine monks in the Catholic Church. They have different social, ethnic, economic, and educational backgrounds. Some are ordained priests, some are not. Some are extroverts, some introverts. But whatever the differences, all have taken vows as monks and have thus consecrated their lives to Christ. For more information, visit www.procopius.org.

 

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