Suit by former SVC president settled

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RUTLAND — A suit filed in U.S. District Court by former Southern Vermont College President David Evans against school officials appears headed for a settlement.

Evans filed suit in December against members of the former college's board of trustees, contending he was denied severance compensation and indemnity coverage in the wake of the school's closure after the spring semester.

Evans, who in June 2019 became the interim president of the American University in Bulgaria, filed suit against "a subgroup" of the board and against the person appointed to oversee restructuring of the financially troubled college and eventual liquidation of campus assets.

The suit sought compensatory and punitive damages, restitution, costs and attorney fees. It named trustees Ira Wagner, Susan Hunter, Deborah Wiley and Carmen Lawrence.

Also named was Charles Goldstein, of 3 Cubed Advisory Services, who was hired in May 2019 to act as a restructuring officer for SVC, which shut down operations after graduation of the final class that month. The 371-acre campus and its buildings are currently being marketed.

The suit refers to termination, indemnification and arbitration agreements Evans said were in effect to provide him severance benefits, including 12 month's pay; protection from legal expenses related to his role with the college, and a right to arbitration of disputes concerning compensation or other matters.

But in a motion filed with the court March 18, Stephen Ellis, of Paul Frank & Collins, of Burlington, representing Evans, asks the court for a 30-day extension of the deadline for the plaintiff to complete service of the summons and complaint against the defendants.

"The parties reached a settlement agreement related to all claims in this matter," Ellis wrote. "The parties are finalizing the settlement and expect that a dismissal of this action will be filed with the court in the near future."

Judge Christina Reiss has granted the extension, according to court records.

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Ellis said the "defendants' counsel has indicated his consent to this motion and the relief sought herein."

In an email last week, Ellis said that he couldn't comment further, but added, "I do anticipate that the pending litigation will be dismissed in the near future."

The current trustee chairman is David Newell, of Bennington, who is not named in the suit, responded in an email, saying, "The claim has been resolved and the lawsuit will be dismissed."

Newell said he could not comment further at this time.

Evans also declined comment when contacted in Bulgaria through messaging.

Evans and the trustees announced in March 2019 that the college would close amid mounting debt and declining student enrollment.

SVC was the third small private college in Vermont to announce a shutdown last year, including College of St. Joseph in Rutland and Green Mountain College in Poultney. Among reasons commonly cited were the debt to endowment ratio and declining enrollment, mirroring a enrollment decline among many colleges throughout New England.

Evans officially left the college May 24, 2019. He had served as president at SVC since Jan. 1, 2015.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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