Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU already spent over $500k on investigation into allegations of board chair misconduct

February 15, 2024
 Board of Trustees Meeting held at the Hannah Administration Building on Apr. 21, 2023.
Board of Trustees Meeting held at the Hannah Administration Building on Apr. 21, 2023. —
Photo by Denille Reid | The State News

An outside investigation into allegations that board chair Rema Vassar violated Board of Trustees bylaws and university policies has cost Michigan State University $500,669.98 as of Nov. 30, 2023.

The investigation began after trustee Brianna Scott sent a letter to the Board of Trustees on Oct. 22, 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 things. Scott's letter also called for Vassar's removal as board chair. 

A day later, MSU trustee and Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance chair Dan Kelly called upon the office to investigate the allegations. MSU announced that law firm Miller & Chevalier would be the entity conducting the investigation on Nov. 7, 2023. 

The DC-based law firm started work on Oct. 30, according to invoices obtained by The State News through a public records request. 

Throughout Oct. 30 and 31, investigators met to discuss the scope and approach to the investigation, draft a work plan and conduct an initial review of background materials. They charged $925-960 an hour, a total of $6,117.50 for six and a half hours of work.

Throughout November, Miller & Chevalier investigators analyzed more documents and prepared for and conducted interviews with MSU personnel and trustees — whose names were either redacted or not included in the documents.

The documents also report that investigators worked to develop “key search terms for on-site trustee phone review” and met with MSU General Counsel Brian Quinn about the scope of the investigation.

The firm charged MSU $490,777.50 for 737.50 hours of work in November, on top of another $3,804.98 in travel fees.

While the documents obtained by The State News only contain invoices up to Nov. 30, MSU spokesperson Emily 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. 

An investigation into the removal of former business school dean Sanjay Gupta totaled $1,577,167. 

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 board chair Rema Vassar’s outside counsel in the same investigation.

“I think these topics are priorities that need to be looked into, and the university has taken them seriously each time and made sure that whatever resources do need to be appropriated are identified,” Guerrant said.

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