Fmr. Head of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Files Lawsuit After Abrupt Firing

The former head of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities has sued the organization after he was fired from his position in October.

Edward O. Blews was brought on by the higher ed organization, which represents 174 faith-based members and affiliates in the beginning of 2013. The CCCU fired Blews after less than a year with little explanation, aside from releasing a statement that said the decision had been made after "careful investigation and prayerful consideration."

Last Wednesday, Blews filed a lawsuit accusing the organization of tarnishing his reputation and giving the appearance that he had been fired with cause in order to save $2 million.

According to Blews' lawsuit, his five-year contract allowed the CCCU's board to dismiss him if it found he had done anything "grossly immoral and felonious," given an "explicit and intentional denial" of his Christian faith or "[intentionally failed] to give his best efforts to perform his responsibilities." Only under the third conditions was the CCCU then responsible for paying him two years' salary and benefits.

In the lawsuit, Blews acknowledged that, although he received some "'advice' amongst overall positive feedback less than two months prior," he "was never disciplined regarding his performance throughout his tenure with CCCU." Instead, he had been "working extraordinarily hard, far beyond the call of duty" and "had achieved remarkable progress for the organization in that short period of time, as acknowledged in the August communications and as detailed in his reports to the board."

Among the issues the lawsuit noted that Blews had been forced to confront were "nepotism in circumvention of organizational hiring procedures, violations of board-adopted policies, apparent gender discrimination within the vice presidential salary structure," "a structural budget deficit," and "the set-up of profitmaking and other subsidiaries raising concern about the organization's tax-exempt status."

The former president asserted in the lawsuit that he has not been paid since his October firing and said that he had repeatedly attempted to live out his employee agreement. Citing several New Testament Bible verses as reference, the agreement called on parties involved in a dispute that "cannot be resolved in private meetings" "to first enter non-binding Christian mediation before pursuing litigation."

According to the lawsuit, Blews had been proactive in trying to bring in a mediator. In a Nov. 25 meeting where the two sides met, the lawsuit stated that the CCCU did not agree to a mediator. It also claimed that the CCCU refused to convene with Blews in January and postponed the meeting until March.

In the meantime, Blews said that he had "refrained from responding to numerous press inquiries in the Christian spirit of resolution," despite the fact that several articles had been published and reflected badly on his character.

Most recently, World Magazine agreed to give former CCCU employees "anonymity" for sharing their comments in an article published earlier this month, "because they could lose their current jobs" if their identities are discoverd. The three employees interviewed described Blews' tenure as "nightmarish."

According to the report, Blews "would berate staff, sometimes in front of colleagues, in meetings that could last for hours. They say Blews tracked which employees complimented him, and during his first staff meeting laid out on a table dozens of congratulatory letters to himself. The Spring 2013 issue of the CCCU's 'Advance Magazine' had 18 photos of Blews."

Blews, who previously worked for nearly 30 years at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, said in the lawsuit that he was apprehensive about joining the CCCU because of concern about the "dysfunction in the organization and unhappiness among the employees."

On Thursday, in the midst of its quadrennial conference in Los Angeles, the CCCU issued a response saying that it was "surprised and disappointed" that Blews had filed a lawsuit "particularly since we had just recently agreed to the date he proposed for mediation of March 18."

"The CCCU remains committed to the mediation process, but it also stands ready to defend its decision to make a presidential transition," it added.