Wednesday, September 23, 2020

MSU's top legal officer to step down

May 10, 2018
Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 29, 2015. Courtney Kendler/The State News
Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 29, 2015. Courtney Kendler/The State News —

A top legal officer at MSU knew of reports regarding former College of Osteopathic Medicine dean William Strampel as early as 2005, but did not act upon them.

According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, Kristine Zayko resigned as MSU’s acting general counsel last week. There is no set date for when she’ll fully step down from the position.

The report detailed a meeting among Strampel and three MSU administrators in the summer of 2005. In that meeting, the officials gathered to express concern over reports of sexually explicit comments and actions by Strampel.

John Hudzik, acting provost in 2005, was present with Zayko, who at the time was MSU’s associate general counsel. Robert Banks, an employee within the provost’s office, was also in the meeting.

The three ultimately concluded to document the conversation in a letter to be placed in Strampel’s personnel file. They accepted spoken promises from Strampel that he would discontinue his behavior. 

No other known action was taken. Two other reviews of Strampel conducted in 2010 and 2015 raised similar concerns about his behavior. 

On Thursday, the Free Press obtained a statement from MSU interim President John Engler in regard to Zayko. Engler had promoted Zayko to general counsel in February following ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s criminal sentencing.  

“From everything I have seen since taking on the role of interim president three months ago, Kristine Zayko has acted with professionalism and integrity," Engler said. "She did not ask to become acting general counsel, but it was a role the university and I needed her to accept as we continue making improvements."

Earlier this week, Zayko also released a statement regarding her career at MSU.

"I have ethically served the university and the Office of General Counsel for more than 20 years with honesty and respect,” she said. “As lawyers, the very nature of our work is confidential and we don't have the liberty to discuss details of the legal advice we've given, regardless of whether it has been taken or ignored."

Over a decade after the 2005 meeting, Strampel currently faces charges of felony misconduct in office, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and two misdemeanors that occurred during his time at MSU. This followed a March 2018 court affidavit alleging he sexually harassed four MSU students. Strampel was also charged for using his office computer to view pornography and for his additional failure to supervise Larry Nassar's actions. 

Strampel is set to appear in East Lansing’s 54B District Court for a preliminary examination on June 5. 

Information in this story was originally reported by the Detroit Free Press. Their story can be found here. 

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