Former Baltimore International president sues culinary college for $5 million

The former president of Baltimore International College is suing the embattled culinary and hospitality school for $5 million, contending that he is not receiving agreed-upon retirement benefits.

Roger Chylinski, who served as president of the college from 1980 until last year, says his contract promised a monthly benefit of $17,000 from the time of his retirement until death. The civil lawsuit, filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, says that the college "precipitously ceased paying" Chylinski in May 2010, just after the board of trustees asked for his resignation.

The lawsuit comes at a time when Baltimore International is fighting to stay open after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education announced the college would lose its accreditation on Aug. 31. The loss of accreditation would leave the college unable to receive federal financial aid, a vital source of revenue.

The college's difficulties with the accreditation agency began under Chylinski's watch, though neither he nor board members would comment on the circumstances of his departure or the lawsuit.

"It's a sensitive time and we have pending litigation," said Chylinski's attorney, Kathleen Cahill, in explaining why Chylinski would not grant an interview.

The lawsuit says that Chylinski entered the contract guaranteeing his retirement benefits in 2004. It adds that upon requesting Chylinski's resignation in an April 2010 letter, board chairman Charles Nabit "profusely thanked" the president for his years of service and assured him that his contract would be honored.

The lawsuit says Chylinski has suffered significant economic loss because of the unpaid retirement. His salary at Baltimore International was about $253,000, according to tax documents. The tax records show that, as of 2009, the college's revenues were slightly greater than its expenses and that its assets were $12.5 million greater than its liabilities.

The college was founded in 1972 and for the great majority of its existence, Chylinski was the face of the institution. Over the years, he promoted the chefs produced by the school and trumpeted its expansion, which included purchases of hotels in Baltimore and Ireland, the former Weglein School in Little Italy, the downtown Merchants Club and the college's current headquarters on Commerce Street.

But in a series of scathing reports, evaluators from the Middle States Commission described Baltimore International as an institution with little grasp of how to retain students, measure academic performance or generate revenue from sources other than tuition. Last month, the commission concluded that the college faced too many major problems to stave off the loss of accreditation, an extremely rare penalty.

The college has 30 days from the date it received the decision to ask for reconsideration, and if that request is denied, it can appeal to a panel of reviewers who weren't involved in the initial decision. The board of trustees has also said the college is exploring a possible merger with another accredited institution.

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