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Portage environmental services company sues Purdue for failure to complete web training course

Portage business owner John Casey says his business, Greentree Environmental Services, is suing Purdue University after Purdue University Northwest failed to complete a website for his company's lead services training.

Greentree Environmental Services President John Casey said when he entered into a contract with Purdue University in 2016, he hoped his business’ lead renovation, repair and painting refresher classes could be a leader in online certification training.

Two and a half years later, Casey’s Portage-based company is suing Purdue, claiming the university failed to deliver on its promise to help build the training website.

“They couldn't pull a website up or get it to work,” Casey said. “And they couldn’t explain why.”

Casey said he first contacted Purdue about a partnership in early 2016 after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency changed its standards for the required lead renovation, repair and painting training, allowing professionals to seek recertification training online every other year rather than attending in-person classes.

He said he hoped to be among the first to offer the online module and sought the help of Purdue University Northwest to bring Greentree’s current in-person courses online.

“Anyone who thinks they’re going to contract with them thinks they’re safe, they’re not going to have problems,” Casey said. “It’s Purdue University.”

In June 2016, Greentree entered into a contract with Purdue’s Sponsored Program Services specifying that a Purdue University Northwest graduate student would work under a professor’s supervision to build a website by Aug. 20, 2016.

Several project extensions later, Casey said, the university has failed to provide a working website. His company is now suing for the $4,465 Greentree paid to Purdue on signing their initial contract.

“I never thought Purdue would rip us off,” Casey said. “That’s why you go to Purdue.”

Spokesmen for Purdue University West Lafayette and Purdue University Northwest declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

When the first contractually agreed upon completion date rolled around in August 2016, Casey said, the website was not operational, so Purdue sought a five-week extension. Casey said he could view and critique aspects of the website in production, but the Purdue team never offered a finished product that worked.

He said this continued over the course of about two years, with Purdue’s team verbally requesting “six or seven” extensions.

Emails between Greentree employees and Purdue representatives show ongoing dialogue between both parties over the nearly two-year period troubleshooting and addressing Greentree’s request for changes to website prototypes.

However, Casey said Greentree needed EPA-approval to begin offering the online course and every time he attempted to share the website, his contact at the EPA was unable to open the provided link.

In May, Casey said, the EPA told Greentree it would only attempt to review the website one more time, so rather than pursuing another extension with Purdue, Casey said he decided to ask for his company’s money back.

After a nearly two-year wait and still no finished project, Casey said his business lost its chance among the first lead renovation, repair and painting certification course providers.

Casey said his company was never asked to pay an additional fee after time was extended on the project, but said he feels Greentree has lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in course fees the business could have profited from had Purdue finished the project on time.

“We’re a small business. We can’t afford to take this kind of loss,” Casey said. “I’m just dumbfounded.”

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.