Looking Internally Addendums And Errata

Looking Internally Addendums And Errata

Submitted by Brian on February 1st, 2018 at 2:00 PM

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[Ray Brown]

A few corrections, clarifications, and additional items are warranted for yesterday's post. I got a few things wrong, and I missed a few other examples that help establish where Michigan finds itself in its efforts to not be at all like Michigan State.

Good news/bad news for FOIA. A couple of twitter folks pointed out that Michigan was successfully sued by the Mackinac Center over its worst-in-class FOIA department:

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So hooray that it can't be as bad, but again this is an FOIA department that had to be forced into even the vaguest approximation of compliance by a lawsuit. Michigan must have an FOIA department that wants to be open, not one that is occasionally forced to be.

The Iowa perspective. Patrick Vint performs an Iowa self-examination:

here's the biggest distinction between Iowa and Michigan State: While Iowa is certainly committed to secrecy, Gary Barta and his staff are equally terrible at secrecy.  Going all the way back to Barta's first scandal, the Everson/Satterfield matter (which will figure prominently here), Iowa has shown a total inability to keep a secret, no matter how hard it collectively tries.  Peter Gray got out eventually.  So did the Griesbaum firing and Meyer transfer, the rhabdo epidemic, the DRUGS? non-scandal in late 2010, and the McCaffery extension.  There are simply too many good reporters around the program with nothing better to do than FOIA the hell out of them a few times a year, and Iowa's FOIA office, to its undying credit, truly appears to adhere to the letter and spirit of the law in almost all circumstances (which is why Iowa stopped putting anything in writing, essentially).

There is the old adage that a government can never keep a secret for long because there are too many people who know how to talk.  That's Iowa; they might well want to keep secrets from everyone, but they're incapable of actually doing that.  That's a good thing.

Also, Kirk Ferentz swung hard towards law and order after some disturbing incidents about a decade ago—remember the point in time when Michigan had hired Rodriguez and it looked like Ferentz was running a cowboy program?—and the Iowa regents cover all three public Iowa universities (UNI and ISU are the other two), with representation about equally spread between the three schools.

On that local prosecutor's office. User Monocole Smile brought up Josh Furman's case, which was a kerfuffle in which two Michigan cheerleaders "restrained" Furman from going after a guy:

The trial began Monday when the two women who were involved in the incident testified they did not feel threatened by Furman during the incident. The women both testified were attempting to hold Furman back from potentially fighting another man who was in the apartment. Mason said that man had been sending Furman explicit text messages regarding his ex-girlfriend.

According to the ex-girlfriend’s testimony, she initiated the physical contact with Furman by grabbing his arm and hair. Mason said that it was clear that if Furman wanted to get past the women into the apartment, he could have.

“If this guy is strong enough to get past OSU’s (Ohio State University) line, he could’ve got past these two cheerleaders,” Mason said. “But, he didn’t do it.”

The prosecutor's reasoning for bringing potentially career-ending domestic violence, assault and battery, and illegal entry charges:

Reiser said regardless of the terms used by the women and their roommate, who also testified on Monday, to describe how Furman tried to enter the apartment — a 911 call played in court Thursday indicated he “forced” his way in, while one woman said Monday he “brushed” by her — he should have been guilty of illegal entry.

“The fact that he used forced at all shows the illegal nature of his entry,” she said. “He was not invited in.”

This is a football player brought up on charges for yelling at a guy and almost getting in a fight. That seems to be a fairly definitive "no" in the "subverted local prosecutor" category. Maybe "jerk-ish local prosecutor," though.

The exact Gibbons timeline. I was not entirely clear that Brendan Gibbons's incident happened under Rich Rodriguez's watch, as did the Lewan threat. It is Rodriguez who should have booted Gibbons. While I am a zealot about how "I didn't know" is not at all a defense for an authority figure, even I am willing to give a new coach a pass for incidents in the past when he takes a team over.

Brady Hoke was still a neanderthal in his reaction to Gibbons's upcoming expulsion. He lied for him, and when confronted about this by the media his attitude towards what had happened was either dismissive or uncomprehending. Take your pick.

Also: it was Hoke who immediately dismissed C'sonte York.

In "are you sure you want to run this NOW?" investigative reporting. Pity the poor Freep reporters who had to drop a long story about Michigan's endowment and how it's run during the midst of the MSU scandal, but they did. The crux opens the story:

Executives at some of the nation's top investment firms donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the University of Michigan while the university invested as much as $4 billion in those companies' funds, a Detroit Free Press investigation found.

More than $400 million of that amount was sent into funds managed by three alumni who advise the university on its investments. Critics worry Michigan’s approach of investing with some of its top donors, who also help guide the university's nearly $11-billion endowment, creates a conflict.

Robert Jones, an MBA graduate from Michigan who helped lead Goldman Sachs Group's quantitative equity fund management unit before helping to found his own firm, is a member of U-M's Investment Advisory Committee, which advises the university's investment staff.

Jones said in an interview last year his firm does not receive U-M investments. And he said he would worry about the appearance of a conflict of interest if his alma mater chose his firm.

"Maybe it would look like I'm only on the committee to further my company, which is not the case," he said, adding, "it just never occurred to me to ask them" for an investment in his firm because he holds a position of influence.

This is another attribute of the university's governance that should be questioned and perhaps changed. I'm sure the folks managing the university's endowment look at it as a favor; Jones points out the obvious downside. At least there is a high-placed person on the advisory firm who's willing to offer no-bullshit quotes to a paper about this practice.

On the other hand, Michigan's tendency towards un-public secrecy again crops up:

The public university lobbied to change the state's open records law to favor the private funds managing U-M's billions. That was to protect information about the performance of funds, including those controlled by top donors to the university. ...

Thanks to Michigan's lobbying effort to change state law, it is a closely guarded secret how well the investment funds run by donors have performed. The university also shields the fees it is charged to manage its money as well as details about profit-sharing. A nonpartisan state agency warned before the law passed that the change could mean "little public accountability for poor or questionable investment decisions."

And that's the way most universities prefer it.

"The reality is nobody gives away their secrets," Lundberg said in an interview. To reveal the performance of individual investments and the fees paid by universities, he said, would hinder the ability to enter high-yield investment funds and "would come at a tremendous cost."

I don't pretend I have enough domain knowledge to say who's correct here.

Also in mendacity. Michigan State has been pretending that a lawyer they essentially hired as defense counsel has been running an independent investigation.

As sexual abuse reports against Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar flooded in a year ago, besieged officials at Michigan State University announced they had ordered an internal review. Overseeing it would be Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a former federal prosecutor whose reputation for investigations into mobsters, terrorists and corrupt politicians led admirers to deem him a modern-day Eliot Ness. ...

And they accused the university of failing to conduct a top-to-bottom, truly independent investigation, settling instead for a review by a legal team that was also trying to protect the school from any damage in the courts. Michigan State portrayed Mr. Fitzgerald as reviewing the Nassar cases even as he was hired to defend the university from lawsuits.

“Michigan State led the public to believe that there had been an independent investigation,” Tom Leonard, the Republican speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, said on Friday in an interview. “And then as we continued to dig into this, we found out it was not an independent investigation. It was an internal investigation to shield them from liability.”

Mr. Fitzgerald said on Friday that his team had never been “engaged to produce a public report” on the Nassar case. He suggested that his team’s role had been misinterpreted by some. In fact, the initial contract between Michigan State and Mr. Fitzgerald’s firm makes no mention of carrying out an independent investigation or producing any report.

Even now they are stacking the deck in their favor by hiring an alum, John Engler, despite his clear disqualifying traits, like 1) being an alum, and 2) belittling sexual assault claims in Michigan prisons, a move that later cost the state nine figures. Rachel Denhollander:

"Engler is a deep political insider at MSU," she said in her Facebook post. "At a time the university desperately needs, and survivors pleaded for, outside accountability and leadership, the board chooses one of the most entrenched insiders."

She said that "despite the board's words about accountability, it is business as usual," and "I sincerely hope the board reconsiders."

Meanwhile, the lead investigator into MSU's culture of sexual assault is this guy:

MSU booster Peter Secchia, who has been under fire for his controversial remarks about the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, has donated more than $200,000 to the Kent County Republican Party and helped pay for the retirement party of former Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, who was named by state Attorney General Bill Schuette over the weekend to lead an investigation into MSU’s handling of the Nassar scandal.

An invitation obtained by the Free Press shows the Peter Secchia family, along with grocer Meijer, were the two major sponsors of Forsyth’s retirement party and roast at a Grand Rapids restaurant in December 2016.

Secchia, a wealthy Grand Rapids-area businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Italy, is also a major donor to MSU and to Schuette.

All of these moves are obviously unacceptable and not really warning signs, but rather MSU retrenchment. The only question is whether MSU can definitively pass Baylor and PSU or whether there will be some question remaining when this is all over.

Where is Rick Snyder in all this? He's a lame duck with no political future. The one thing he could do to maybe rehab his image in the eyes of a state that sees only Flint water when they look at him is to go on the warpath. CMU, EMU, WMU, Tech, Ferris, Mercy, NMU, LSSU, and Michigan grads surely outnumber this cabal of Spartans seeking only to preserve their precious wins over Michigan no matter how many lives get wrecked in the process.

Snyder's "mulling action." Dude. Go down swinging. You may be the only adult-type substance in the room.

Looking Internally In The Aftermath Of MSU

Looking Internally In The Aftermath Of MSU

Submitted by Brian on January 31st, 2018 at 2:12 PM

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i quit

In the wake of... all that at Michigan State I thought it might be apropos to survey Michigan's own house, looking for warning signs. In part this is because I think there is a major one. To me, there are four major components that lead to something as callous as Michigan State's athletic department: a commitment to secrecy, an incestuous power structure, leaders who don't care about anything but the bottom line, and the ability to subvert outside checks on your behavior.

Point by point:

Pattern of DGAF discipline because you only care about the bottom line

Brandon Graham : Glenn Winston :: Winston : EL citizens

Mark Dantonio established a long time ago that he more or less doesn't care if you, football player, do something bad. Delton Williams pulled a gun in a road rage incident and served jail time. He was immediately reinstated. MacGarrett Kings was arrested for "super drunk" DUI and got a zero game suspension. MacGarrett Kings was arrested for kicking a parking enforcement truck and resisting arrest, still got a zero game suspension. Glenn Winston broke a hockey player's jaw with a sucker punch, served six months in jail, and was immediately reinstated. LJ Scott was arrested seven times for driving on a suspended license without reaction. Auston Robertson was admitted as a recruit after multiple high school assaults, one sexual, and proceeded to commit a sexual assault while in college. He didn't so much leave the team as go on the lam.  Chris L Rucker was jailed for eight days during the 2010 season after a DUI violated his probation and played the weekend after his release.

And, of course, there was that probation. Rucker was on probation because even the Ingham County prosecutor's office—about which more in a second—couldn't make surveillance tape from a dorm brawl go away. That brawl was spearheaded by one Glenn Winston:

The fight took place during a potluck function sponsored by the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, hours after Michigan State's team banquet. Winston reportedly had been in an altercation the previous night at a party thrown by the same fraternity at an East Lansing nightspot. An unnamed Michigan State player was charged with public urination and possession of alcohol by a minor outside the Small Planet nightclub.

Dell's father told the Detroit Free Press that Winston informed his teammates about the altercation, and they agreed to follow him to the potluck the next night.

Winston was finally removed from the team, as well as one other of the twenty Michigan State players who decided it would be a good idea to rumble with the Jets.

It was only last year that the 16 sexual assaults Dantonio has overseen during his time at Michigan State were public enough, and the outside heat turned up enough, that Donnie Corley, Josh King, and Demetric Vance were probed, arrested, and booted. Even there Dantonio's hands were tied by the fact that their prison sentences are likely to extend past their eligibility.

Tom Izzo, meanwhile, kept Keith Appling, a man local police wanted to charge for rape, on the team for four years. He was not even suspended.

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i know what this press conference isn't about [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

So. There's that. Michigan does not show the same proclivities, mostly. We have no idea what John Beilein's discipline policy is like because—except for Mitch McGary testing positive for pot at the NCAA tournament—literally none of his players have ever been in trouble. Laval Lucas-Perry was dismissed for violating team rules but there appears to be no legal reason.

Under Harbaugh, the only thing approximating lax discipline has been Grant Perry's three-game suspension in the aftermath of an incident outside an East Lansing bar. That resulted in probation and a diversionary plea deal; it cost Perry a quarter of a season. Other incidents under Harbaugh have been met with summary execution. C'sonte York, Logan Tuley-Tillman, and Nate Johnson were all immediately booted for incidents that would have been met with zero game suspensions from Dantonio.

I mean this literally. York sucker punched a guy, which is the same offense Winston committed minus the broken jaw and six months in jail. Tuley-Tillman was convicted of taping consensual sex and sending it from her phone to his; his conviction was also diverted. Nate Johnson was sentenced to four days in jail and probation for a domestic violence incident. That number of days in jail doesn't even warrant a weekend suspension at MSU.

Pre-Harbaugh Michigan did have Brendan Gibbons. Gibbons was not charged as a freshman when his incident occurred, but he should have been booted anyway. "Woman you have sex with does rape kit immediately afterwards" isn't a convictable offense in the court of law but should be disqualifying for a Michigan athlete.

More disturbing is Taylor Lewan's behavior in the aftermath. For the record, Lewan denies that he said this:

The alleged victim also accused Lewan, a longtime teammate of Gibbons with the Wolverines, of then threatening her if she pursued charges -- "I'm going to rape her because, [Gibbons] didn't."

I don't believe him. I don't believe him because there is a UM police report on the incident with a specific and believable account of this interaction. Maybe the exact phrasing involved is incorrect but the overall thrust of the interaction is clear: an attempt to intimidate this woman. That should have gotten him suspended, but it's clear from the way the Gibbons situation played out that Brady Hoke was a neanderthal in this department.

That had to change. External indicators seem to indicate that it has. For what it's worth, the whisper network had outed Gibbons just as thoroughly as it had outed Keith Appling and Adriean Payne before ESPN finally put their names and acts into print, and I haven't heard anything similar since.

Subversion of local prosecutor's office

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lax MSU discipline did not help Keith Appling in the long run

The East Lansing police department recommended prosecution for Keith Appling and Adriean Payne after Payne essentially confessed in a police interview. No charges were brought for an astounding quid pro quo:

Schaner says campus police investigators told her that, because of Payne's police interview, they had a solid case to pursue. Once the case was forwarded from police to Ingham County prosecutors, Schaner was interviewed by an assistant prosecutor, Debra Rousseau Martinez. Schaner says Martinez told her she did not seem strong enough to stand up to questioning that would come as a result of making allegations against MSU basketball players.

No charges were filed in the case. The assistant prosecutor, Martinez, now works for Michigan State's Title IX office. She declined to comment on Schaner's case.

Meanwhile the Ingham County DA for the large majority of the timeframe covered here was Stuart Dunnings III, who eventually went to jail for a bundle of charges including soliciting prostitutes and, more relevant for this post, subverting the justice system repeatedly when favored people were caught up in it. Just a couple of the litany of offenses:

In August 2012, charges were inexplicably dropped in a drug paraphernalia case. When an investigator interviewed the person who dropped the charges — likely an assistant prosecutor, whose identity was redacted from the report — the person told the detective she doesn’t know why she dismissed the case and “she would’ve documented if someone had contacted her requesting she dismiss the charges.”

In November 2013, a woman arrested on a domestic violence charge claimed to know Dunnings personally and said she should be released immediately, a jail staffer told investigators. Dunnings called the jail and said he wanted the woman released into his custody. Though “the staff thought it strange that the prosecutor was getting personally involved in this case,” investigators found at least eight women had been released from the jail in 2015 “at the request of the prosecutor or the prosecutor’s office.” The Sheriff’s Office oversees the jail.

If Dunnings was willing to spring prostitutes from jail because he knew them, a call from Izzo or Dantonio only has one outcome. The woman assaulted by Travis Walton, who picked up a bizarre littering charge instead of the original assault charge, states the obvious:

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If Grant Perry played for MSU he would have gotten a littering charge, because it's hard to tell whether the Ingham County prosectuor's office is more incompetent or corrupt. This is Dunnings's replacement:

“You put all of these together after what we now know and they look like flags, but at the time … (it) was inappropriate, but did it rise to the level of knowledge of a criminal activity? No,” said Whitmer, who was appointed to serve the last six months of Dunnings’ term. She noted in a Friday interview that she was not privy to the investigation during her review of the prosecutor’s office.

This is a dude in jail.

Wriggelsworth said Friday that it wasn’t until this investigation that his office had anything solid — or even wrote an official report.

But the prosecutor’s activities were so widely known, in fact, that an inmate laughed when he saw Dunnings being led down a hall in the county jail in cuffs in March.

“Everyone knows” Dunnings had been involved with prostitutes “for years,” the inmate said, according to the records. “Damn, the man finally got caught up.”

Either the dude in jail is the smartest guy in the building or the cover your ass attitude didn't end with Dunnings.

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This does not appear to be the case in Ann Arbor. Even if Nate Johnson and Logan Tuley-Tillman aren't the best examples because both had been booted from the team as soon as their offenses had become known, they were still charged appropriately. Going a bit further back in time, Will Campbell was charged with a felony for this extremely unwise hijink:

Michigan senior defensive tackle Will Campbell is facing one felony and one misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of property stemming from an April 7 incident, according to court records. ...

According to Ann Arbor police, Campbell was arrested after attempting to slide across the hood of a vehicle at 2 a.m. on April 7 in the 600 block of Church Street. An officer in the area could hear the sheet metal on the hood of the car buckle under Campbell’s weight — he’s listed at 322 pounds — and arrested the senior, police stated.

Campbell was intoxicated, according to police.

He pled down to a misdemeanor and paid restitution, as is appropriate for a first-time offender. He was certainly not undercharged initially. Meanwhile the main accusation leveled at Michigan's Title IX department recently is that they railroaded Drew Sterrett, a non-athlete whose preposterous expulsion was rightfully overturned in court. It is unlikely to be a haven for disgraceful ex-prosecutors who shuffled rape charges under the table in order to do Joel Ferguson a solid.

The nature of these kinds of issues is that they get shuffled under the carpet for years until someone ferrets them out, so that's not definitive, and unfortunately...

Terrible FOIA Office

ESPN had to sue MSU multiple times to get unredacted versions of the documents they requested, and was infamously sued by MSU because of this conundrum:

MSU argues in a court filing that it has been put in an "impossible position" because Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon's office asked the university to withhold the records and ESPN asked for them to be released.

That's not at all how FOIA works, but ESPN had to take that case all the way to the state supreme court before they could proceed. MSU's FOIA office was in full thrall to their university-wide omerta policy. Any FOIA office that acts similarly should put its university under similar suspicion.

Requesting Jim Harbaugh's very boring expense reports took Deadspin "months of back and forth," and this Daily article still remains the gold standard for FOIA office comparisons. Michigan's office is WORSE THAN MSU's, which is the second worst in all the land:

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This is probably something that goes back to a state law that needs to be changed, but Michigan taking fuller advantage of it than the sexual assault enablers in East Lansing is unacceptable.

As someone with some experience with the FOIA office I can tell you that Michigan had a policy under Dave Brandon (and may still have it under Warde Manuel) where athletic department emails were purposefully and systematically deleted after a certain period of time to remove them from FOIA. This meant the infamous "find a new team" email returned no responses when people suspicious it was a fake asked for it. I meant that whenever I tried to get all emails from Dave Brandon over a month long period there were no matching results.

The FOIA office also always, always, always replies that they will not be able to get to your request in the five business days mandated by state law and will use the ten day extension, whereupon they use the full three weeks before responding.

This is a statewide problem and should be rectified by:

  • Making FOIA requests free short of purposefully vexing ones.
  • Making "deleted" emails subject to FOIA; there is absolutely no excuse for Michigan's behavior in this regard.
  • Establishing certain things as outside the bounds of FERPA, like names on police reports.

Michigan, meanwhile, should take these steps independently. Because right now their FOIA office looks a lot like one set up to shield sexual assault.

Incestuous power structure

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clowns

Lou Anna Simon had never worked anywhere other than Michigan State. The Michigan State board of trustees is a collection of blatantly unqualified mandarins that in other circumstances would qualify as hilarious. It contains:

  • An 83-year old former football coach whose tenure ended when years of steroid abuse in his program came to light. George Perles denied any knowledge of such a thing.
  • Joel Ferguson, whose own words are sufficiently damning. If you need more, racketeering charges and straight up admitting that he's buying off the mayor of East Lansing.
  • Mitch Lyons, former MSU football player, who publicly outed Auston Robertson's accuser Robertson as the Corley-Vance-King whistleblower and was recently charged with assault. Lyons at least was the first to flip on Simon.
  • Brian Breslin, who is the son of the guy their basketball arena is named after.
  • Brian Mosallam, another former MSU football player. Mosallam at least seems to realize they screwed up massively.

Miraculously, the other three people are not obviously beholden to the MSU athletic department—their actions only imply it. Their unanimous appointment of John Engler to replace Simon...

...is a ridiculous, we-learned-nothing slap in the face.

Michigan had one notable misstep here that you undoubtedly remember: appointing Dave Brandon athletic director despite his extreme narcissism and total lack of experience in athletic department administration. Outside of that Michigan looks outside itself for top end hires. Mark Schlissel came from Brown, Mary Sue Coleman from Iowa, Lee Bollinger from Dartmouth (though he was faculty at M for a long time prior). The most recent president to move up the ranks from inside the university was James Duderstadt in 1988. Critically, no Michigan alum has been president at the university since 1951. An Ohio State grad has been president more recently than that.

Amongst the board of regents many care about Michigan athletics but there's only one person clearly indebted to it: Ron Weiser, who was endorsed by "Sarah" Harbaugh prior to the most recent board of regents election. There are no former football players or coaches.

Unfortunately, Michigan does display some signs of dysfunction at high levels. "Supplemental" pay has been rising dramatically in recent years, in an apparent effort—again—to skirt FOIA laws:

As a public university, U-M is required by state law to disclose annual salary reports. In those reports, U-M discloses base salary. Yet faculty say base pay is only part of the story, and that in disclosing full-pay U-M will increase accountability.

A group of about a dozen faculty members published an open letter to regents in April, suggesting that faculty pay has been increasing modestly in the last decade, while administrator pay at the school has increased substantially, both through hikes in base salaries and through supplemental pay.

"It shows this disparity [in pay] is growing," Dario Gaggio, a history professor at U-M who co-authored the letter, said of the supplemental pay data. "The higher up you go in the hierarchy, the faster the compensations grow."

He added: "I think the whole system really is in need of a general review."

The University in general shows little to no resistance to the increasing disparities between rank and file pay and executive pay that plague every industry in the country but are especially grating in a non-profit, public-interest enterprise like a public university. And they go out of their way to disguise that. From such small mendacities greater things can spawn.

Michigan, in general, must become more open. Open about compensation, compliant with the spirit of FOIA, not the mere letter. After all:

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"A sign of high integrity is not [being] worried about being FOIA'd"