Dean alleges City Colleges fired him for blowing whistle over storage of dead bodies in lab

By Jonathan Bilyk | Apr 29, 2015

The former dean overseeing nursing and other health care career programs at Malcolm X College in Chicago has sued Chicago’s City College system, alleging he was wrongly fired in retaliation for his actions to draw attention to what he alleges were the improper storage of human cadavers at the colleges.

Micah Young, the former Dean for Health Sciences and Career Programs at Malcolm X College, filed suit April 28 in Cook County Circuit Court against the City Colleges of Chicago and its board of trustees, alleging the college violated state whistleblower laws and illegally retaliated against him when Young was removed from his position.

Young is represented in the action by attorneys Brian R. Holman, Dennis Stefanowicz and Tara Beth Davis, of the firm of Holman & Stefanowicz, of Chicago.

According to the complaint, the college fired Young without warning on Feb. 4, citing “performance issues.”

However, Young asserts in his complaint the college and its officials had, since he became dean in 2012, routinely praised his performance.

The complaint includes a list of accomplishments Young ascribed to his actions, including the redesign of the college’s physician assistant and nursing programs; reaccreditation of the physician assistant, radiography technology, surgical technology and respiratory care programs; gaining  accreditation of the emergency medical technician and paramedic programs; the addition of numerous new programs of study at the college; and sharply boosting the college graduates’ passage rates on state licensing exams for nurses and physician assistants.

For his work, Young said he was particularly singled out for praise by Anthony Munroe, president of Malcolm X College.

However, in the weeks leading up to his dismissal, he was investigated by the college system’s inspector general for his decision to dig into and expose the treatment of cadavers kept in storage at Malcolm X and other city colleges.

In his complaint, Young said he began his own investigation into the matter in June 2014, when he was advised by faculty members at the college of “unidentified decomposing human bodies stored in cardboard boxes at Malcolm X College.”

The investigation uncovered four such human bodies, “stored in an unrefrigerated ‘walk-in safe’” in a lab on the campus, which was not sealed off from the college’s main heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, Young alleges in his complaint, presenting health risks to others on the college’s campus.

Young alleges the investigation also determined the college’s former president, Zurie Campbell, was also aware of the presence of the bodies at the college, and the bodies had been stored at the college since before 2003. Further, the investigation allegedly revealed the college had paid $10,000 to store the bodies off-site while the college underwent renovations.

Because the bodies were unidentified and “unidentifiable,” the college could not find a vendor to properly dispose of the bodies, Young alleges in his complaint, so the bodies were allowed to continue to decompose in the college’s unrefrigerated walk-in safe.

Young’s complaint alleges further investigation uncovered at least eight additional “unidentified bodies rotting at other city colleges,” including at least one believed to be from Indiana. If true, the transportation of that body across state lines could have violated “numerous other laws and regulations,” Young said in his complaint.

Young said he complained of his discoveries to the college’s leadership throughout his investigation and to the representative of the inspector general’s office.

In his complaint, Young said he warned college leadership and the inspector general of the risk presented by the “deplorable” improper storage of the bodies to those at the college, as well as to “human body donor programs,” which, he said, “would cease to exist if the public was aware of the disrespectful manner in which the human bodies are used and stored at the city colleges.”

“It was unforgiveable that certain families lost the opportunity to provide the proper burial or cremation of their loved ones’ remains,” Young’s complaint asserts he told the inspector.

Further, on Jan. 28, Young alleges he sent an email to college leadership regarding hazards presented by the presence of black soot in air ducts at the offices used by the college’s EMT and paramedics program staff. In response, he alleges the college’s human resources director told him he was “causing trouble.”

This complaint also played a role in the college’s decision to terminate his employment, Young said.

Young has requested a jury trial and asked the court to award unspecified damages from the city colleges system.

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