Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU already paid $92k for board chair and unidentified individual's legal representation in investigation of alleged misconduct

February 23, 2024
The Board of Trustees during a meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.
The Board of Trustees during a meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023. —
Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

Michigan State University has spent nearly $100,000 for legal representation of board chair Rema Vassar and one other unidentified individual in an outside investigation into allegations that Vassar violated Board of Trustees bylaws and university policies. 

The investigation began after trustee Brianna Scott sent a letter to the Board of Trustees in Oct. 2023, alleging that Vassar bullied colleagues, interfered in legal disputes and attempted to keep word of trustee meddling out of an official report about the February campus shooting, among other accusations. Vassar quickly disputed the allegations, calling them “fabrications and misstatements.” 

MSU announced law firm Miller & Chevalier would conduct an investigation into the veracity of the allegations in November. As of Nov. 31, 2023, investigators have billed MSU over half a million dollars for 743.5 hours of work

But the expenses don't stop there

As of Dec. 31, 2023, Rochester law firm Miller Law charged the university $85,175 for 103.25 hours of work, according to invoices obtained by The State News

While the name of the individual it is representing is redacted in the documents, and MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant said she could not identify the individuals being represented by either firm, Miller Law confirmed its client is Vassar

Vassar did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Royal Oak law firm Ahmad & Akbar Law is representing a second client in the investigation, whose name is also redacted in the documents obtained by The State News. The firm could not confirm the identity of its client.

It's charged MSU a $7,000 retainer fee. Hourly rates for the attorneys range from $75-$400 per hour, but no work had been billed as of Dec. 6, 2023.

All told, the investigation has cost MSU at least $592,844.98.

The documents obtained by The State News regarding Miller & Chevalier’s work only contain invoices up to Nov. 30, 2023. Invoices showing legal representation go up to Dec. 31, 2023. 

But spokesperson Guerrant said the investigation is still ongoing.

“There is not a firm timeline for it to be done, although I do anticipate it to be done soon,” Guerrant said.

This is the latest in a series of costly external investigations MSU has ordered into allegations of misconduct. It’s also not the only time MSU has paid for Vassar’s legal counsel.

An investigation into the removal of former business school dean Sanjay Gupta totaled $1,577,167 by its completion in 2023

MSU also spent up to $990 an hour for investigators from the firm Jones Day to probe who may have leaked the identity of Brenda Tracy, the woman who former football coach Mel Tucker was found to have sexually harassed. The university paid $78,204 on Vassar’s outside counsel in the same investigation.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Discussion

Share and discuss “MSU already paid $92k for board chair and unidentified individual's legal representation in investigation of alleged misconduct” on social media.