At the dining commons

Margaret Malloy, left, and Rachel Lally have a mid-afternoon lunch at Keene State College’s Zorn Dining Commons in 2013.

Keene State College, Plymouth State University and the University System of New Hampshire have paid a total of $425,000 to their former dining services provider in the settlement of a recent lawsuit, according to an agreement obtained by The Sentinel through a right-to-know request.

Sodexo Management Inc. filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Concord in December, alleging the institutions allowed Sodexo’s direct competitor to hire away managers and supervisory-level employees in breach of a “no-hire” provision in the institutions’ contracts with the company.

Keene State and Plymouth State, which are part of the state’s university system, switched to a new provider, Chartwells Higher Education Services, this academic year. Chartwells was selected through a public bidding process after the schools’ previous contracts with Sodexo expired, Keene State spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte said in July.

In its original complaint, Sodexo claimed it was owed more than $1 million in contractual damages related to five management-level employees who were hired by Chartwells to continue working at Keene State and six supervisory employees hired by Chartwells to work at Plymouth State, according to the suit.

The agreement, which was signed in April, specifies that the settlement does not indicate “an admission by the Parties of fault, guilt, or noncompliance with the Contracts, any federal, state or local statute, public policy, tort law, contract law, common law or any other wrongdoing whatsoever.”

A statement from the University System of New Hampshire, sent through legal counsel Wednesday, states that the system is pleased the lawsuit has been resolved.

“... Chartwells and USNH worked closely to resolve this matter without the expenditure of any student tuition or fees or any other public funds,” the statement reads. “USNH, Keene State College, and Plymouth State University look forward to a long and valuable relationship with Chartwells and the quality food service it provides for the benefit of our students, our institutions, and the State of New Hampshire.”

An emailed request sent to the university system’s media relations office for additional information about the funds used for the settlement payment was not answered before press time.

When asked how much Keene State contributed to the payment, Ricaurte referred to the university system’s official statement, which does not specify the amounts each institution paid.

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or mmcintyre@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MMcIntyreKS.