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.

Comments

Boner Stabone

February 1st, 2018 at 2:06 PM ^

Not to mention that John Engler and Peter Secchia (MSU donor) are best friends.  I was vacationing years ago on Mackinac Island when Engler was governor and Engler and Secchia walked right past me joking it up like two good old buddies.

Since Secchia has close ties to Izzo, there is no way Izzo or Dantonio will get fired by this interim administration.

Everyone Murders

February 1st, 2018 at 7:11 PM ^

Bill Schuette wrote a book called Big Lessons from a Small Town in 2015.  Who wrote the introduction to that book?  Why, none other than Mark Dantonio.

So tell me what happens when this investigation starts getting close to Spartan football questions.  Actually, I can tell you.  It mysteriously veers away from that, and back to Nassar, Klages, and other targets that are already damaged goods.  A decent AG would have recused himself from the case in its entirety, but instead Schuette appointed his finger puppet William Forsyth to act as special prosecutor and retained oversight.

This all smacks of Penn State redux, except MSU won't commission a proper Freeh Report - because it does not want the full bloody truth to come out.

Oregon Wolverine

February 4th, 2018 at 12:36 AM ^

Barb McQuade would make an excellent special prosecutor. She’s on M Law’s faculty and a former classmate of mine at M Law. Smart, tough, relentless.

She’d help Sparty clean house. That’s what Sparty needs.

Love to see her ratchet up the heat on IzTonio.

clarkiefromcanada

February 1st, 2018 at 2:20 PM ^

These will be the problem for MSU gymnastics, football, basketball.

Discovery will happen. 

Things will become public. 

It's not an accident that Hollis cut bait.

The light these clowns see at the end of the tunnel is the train.

 

Wolverine In Iowa 68

February 1st, 2018 at 2:57 PM ^

The marching band director was investigated and given a slap on the wrist (1 week unpaid vacation, wait 3 months and we will promote you as planned, and skip a Band party next year) for sexually harrassing a student who worked for him in 2016.

Kinda shows the culture isn't confined to just athletics on campus.

ST3

February 1st, 2018 at 3:13 PM ^

This goes back a ways. MSU has been one screwed-up cesspool of filth for decades. 

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930523&slug=…

Band veterans reportedly exposed their genitals in public and goaded newcomers to do the same, and gave themselves and the freshmen lewd nicknames. The nicknames of band members were recorded on MSU forms and printed in an official band directory at the end of the year. Band members who made mistakes playing or marching reportedly were disciplined in a ritual involving nudity. "It was horrible . . . degrading, disgusting and one of the filthiest things I've ever had to endure in life," said Greenfield. Greenfield wants to be reinstated in the band without penalty and a monitor to ensure such harassment is stopped. He also wants at least $10,000 to pay for legal fees and pain and suffering. His attorneys, Peggy and Michael Pitt, called the band's behavior a "Tailhook-in-training situation," referring to the Navy sex scandal.

Commie_High96

February 1st, 2018 at 3:10 PM ^

I was actually able to ask a UM administrator who oversees a lot of UM public relations why their FOIA is so bad, she told me that UM gets more requests than the other Universities in Michigan combined. They are pretty overworked. That is the company line anyway.

Njia

February 1st, 2018 at 3:17 PM ^

As Brian (and several others) have pointed out, he's a consumate insider. From an optics point of view, that makes his appointment as the Special Prosecutor highly suspect. 

What Schuette should have done is ask for someone from outside of the state with no ties to MSU. That's the only way he or she could have been independent in both a practical sense, and in terms of the perception of the role.

Space Coyote

February 1st, 2018 at 3:22 PM ^

I don't think there is enough evidence to prove that Izzo or Dantonio are completely in the wrong here. I also don't believe they are above reproach in any way here. But the focus of these issues, as Brian's articles have pointed out, are adminostrators and the athletic departments that overlook these things. It's the circumstances and environment they exist within that is the bigger issue. If the coaches are complicit in inappropriate behavior, if they covered things up, if they acted alone in serving punishment, then that is obviously bad, and they should be gone. But don't lose sight of the bigger issue and focus only on these two, because they are the ones that most impact Michigan in sports.

We don't know what the coaches knew. It is almost certain that what they knew was largely painted by the athletes themselves, because that is all the information they have access to. Coaches aren't investigators, they aren't police, they aren't a lot of things. While they should be coaches both in their sport and help these players grow off the field, I think there is a lot of nuance and gray that is easily missed by not being involved in the intricasies of that relationship. That's not absolving these coaches because some kids grew up hard or something, but I think perspective is needed. And the much bigger problem here is the MSU admin and AD, who at worst were covering up the Nassar situation (and by extension, potentially similar sexual assault issues within the AD), or were at best willfully ignorant of it to pass the buck. Neither is acceptable. 

This is an issue because MSU, their Title XI office, the gymnastics coaching staff, and their police department basically said "trust us" with the Nassar situation, and they failed every step of the way. Then it comes out that the AD apparently handled a lot of issues "in house", and expect "trust us" to still work in light of the Nassar situation. And people aren't, and they shouldn't.

But the focus of fans turning on Dantonio and Izzo alone is misguided. I get the urge to do so, because they are the big fish, the idols of these programs, but the focus should remain on the AD and admins as a whole, because it's a systemic issue, not isolated to these two individuals. Because the issue is systemic, MSU fans should also not be circling the wagons and endlessly defending them and attacking folks making accusations. That is also awful. 

I truly believe most are more concerned about this getting right. But those that are more focused on Dantonio and Izzo have ulterior motives. While I question how those coaches have handled some situations, and how they handled those situations should be looked in to and are worth pointing out for context of the bigger picture, they are just that: context for the bigger picture that should remain the focus. What befalls those coaches will depend on their place in a larger systemic problem.

trueblueintexas

February 1st, 2018 at 3:30 PM ^

I don't diasgree with much of what you are saying. The critical component I don't think you are giving enough weight to is the level of influence coaches like Dantonio and Izzo have in the athletic department and in many cases the administration. In essence, they can create the culture on campus. 

I have witnessed this on three different college campuses as the son of a former college administrator. As much as I love college sports, frankly, it is disgusting how strong of an influence a winning coach can have on an institution of higher education. 

 

JFW

February 1st, 2018 at 4:58 PM ^

....but I think at the least the charges leveled against Izzo, Dantonio, the police department, and the prosecutors need to be looked into. 

I think Dantonio is a dick. But for most of the time I have watched him he seems to be a good coach dick. I don't like some of the things he's done that Brian has outlined, but while I think they are scummy, they aren't illegal. 

I can't say much about Izzo as I don't follow bball. 

But, and this is a big caveat, MSU has absolutely zero benefit of the doubt. This issue has been so horrendous, and they have been so tone deaf, that I think they need to be picked apart stone by stone. And I don't mean that because I hate them. In the end MSU is another major university. It's good for the State if they are good. But they can't be good until all this shit is cleaned out and cauterized. 

If a thorough investigation is done and they are found to be within bounds, so be it. I'll be relieved. That is what we all, honestly, want. Is to find out that the right processes were done and the victims were given fair treatment. 

But that investigation must happen. Because so far as I can tell MSU's attitude through all this is just a variation of their butt hurt sports attitude. They are like my young son getting caught at something and getting mad at me for catching him. 

I also really want UM analyzed. Not to the same degree. But lets fix what needs fixing as Brian pointed out so that we can be clean. 

k.o.k.Law

February 1st, 2018 at 6:21 PM ^

Universities never should have been tasked with investigating sex assault cases.

The feds forced a protocol on them.

Sex assaults should be reported to law enforcement, like other crimes.

So, if I am the lawyer (I am a lawyer) advising the coaches, I tell them follow the protocol.  That is the safe zone, doing more, or less, has risk.

This does not relieve coaches of responsibility, but it does unnecessarily complicates things.

On the Walton "littering" case, the prosecutor says he has witness statements that support his version of events.  It has not been established that that complaining witness was telling the truth.  I do not see how Izzo can be blamed for that one.

On Payne, I see no excuse for not prosecuting, which is not Izzo's decision.

On the Payne/Appling assault, other than Payne's confession, I see nothing now that was not disclosed when it happened.

I do not see how MSU can fire him now for that occurence., though of course, they should have been suspended if not ejected.

I would love for Snyder to request the immediate resignation of the entire board of trustees, not sure how they would be replaced, but they could hardly do worse.

The buck stops somewhere.

outsidethebox

February 2nd, 2018 at 10:29 AM ^

I believe the chance that there is great error in your assessment is significant. Controlling the conversation and silencing the victims is at the heart of this entire matter. Here, to say that Izzo and Dantonio have not been in postion to control the conversation could not be more blatantly false. And to dismiss pretty much out of hand that they have not controlled the message and withheld significant information is silly. Any objective person of reason knows that is what "everyone" does...that is simply how we humans operate. This is not a conspiracy theory meanderings...this is "We have met the enemy...".

That being said, the challenge of finding a just solution in a matter such as this is...well, nearly impossible. I hope some wise people end up being the decision-makers here.

Don

February 2nd, 2018 at 9:35 AM ^

You can bank on it.

The unwritten but understood job of Engler and Forsyth is to focus all their attention on Nassar and the expendable people who share blame, and to deflect any and all critical scrutiny of MSU's football and basketball programs.

It's a risky strategy, but in their eyes Izzo and Dantonio are the untouchable face of MSU.

Erik_in_Dayton

February 1st, 2018 at 2:36 PM ^

...as an academic institution. I don't meant that as a dig.  I'd just thought about them with regard to sports.  But now I'm really pretty surprised at just how wretchedly inept they are.  And I don't enjoy saying that or finding it to be the case.

trueblueintexas

February 1st, 2018 at 3:01 PM ^

With this being a midterm election year and Michigan having all 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 1 U.S. Senate seat all running, MSU better make real changes fast. If not, opinions on how to handle the situtation will get wrapped up in the political battles pretty quick. If that happens, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh boy, look out.

gustave ferbert

February 1st, 2018 at 2:39 PM ^

(all the other schools in Michigan except MSU) 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.

this is all it was! 

BahamaMama

February 1st, 2018 at 2:40 PM ^

So heads will roll relating to that. The Izzo/Dantonio stuff -eh, not so much. Snyder, or maybe the Feds need to take on the good ole boys network that MSU can't seem to function without. There are victims other than the Nassar ladies that deserve to be heard as well.

bronxblue

February 1st, 2018 at 2:48 PM ^

The FOIA policies always seemed out of whack for the school, so hopefully they'll at least be forced to be semi reasonable in terms of delivery of requests.

MSU's attempts at damage control have been stupendously bad. But Snyder won't do anything because, as you noted, he already messed up a bunch of times earlier and doesn't have anything to gain. He'll go into consulting or lobbying after this, and my guess is he figures staying below the radar isn't the worst idea.

CRISPed in the DIAG

February 1st, 2018 at 3:53 PM ^

Notwithstanding the FOIA settlement, it is important to realize that State and Local government process a massive amount of information. They are often understaffed and required to do actual work. This work should not include extraneous information requests from student newspapers or conservative policy think tanks. I've fielded broad FOIA requests that can not be processed in a reasonable amount of time (eg, "Please provide all communications related to your city's budget process for the previous five (5) fiscal years. For purpose of this request, 'communications' shall be defined as but not limited to all written notes, memorandums, email, voicemails, mobile text messages, computer financial spreadsheet applications.....).

On another occasion a major newspaper asked me to provide medical information from employee files - as a test. They were asking me as a test of our FOIA policy and procedures. Because I have nothing better to do.

TreyBurkeHeroMode

February 2nd, 2018 at 9:08 AM ^

The founding principle of our nation is that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. Without meaningful access to information about what our governments are doing, we can't provide informed consent.

As someone who's been both a journalist and a policy think tank staffer, I profoundly disagree with the way you look at FOIA. It shouldn't be an inconvenience for governments in a democracy to tell their citizens what they're doing; it should be a fundamental function. Sunshine disinfects.

Frankly, in the modern era, governments spend way too much time and effort making people go through the FOIA process rather than simply putting the information online. I recently got involved in trying to figure out why my small suburb's pension and retiree health care funds were so badly underfunded, and wanted to look at the city's union contracts to make sure I understood what the contractual limits were on potential solutions. The city administrator told me I needed to file a FOIA request, instead of simply sending me the contracts. What possible reason should there be not to simply put that information online where anybody who wants it -- including city employees covered by the contracts -- can see it?

FOIA allows governments to charge people for the staff time it'll take to collect requested information, so "understaffed" shouldn't be an issue. And when if comes to things like that five-year request you referenced, it's certainly common for government bodies to use that as a tool for not responding to that kind of fishing expedition. (The Platonic ideal of this is the famous $7 million FOIA fee the Michigan State Police tried to charge my friends and fomer colleagues at the Mackinac Center when they attempted to dig into reports of mismanagement of federal Homeland Security grants.)

CRISPed in the DIAG

February 5th, 2018 at 10:25 AM ^

Late answer to your really long post: The "city administrator" asked you to go thru the FOIA request because they probably had a FOIA policy that was meant to provide a standard response to information requests from the pubilc and the press. For example, if a reporter/citizen called looking for a copy of a union contract, I want to be able to document that I gave it to someone. The policy also spells out time and cost issues for the request so that everyone is aware of that they are treated the same way. As a city manager, I don't want to be accused by a union of playing favorites to a reporter or citizen if I distribute a contract. 

Your cost argument is irrelevant.  Just because I am reimbursed for the cost of doing something (costs which Brian Cook says are too high) doesn't mean that I should drop what I'm doing to complete your FOIA request. It's less time spent serving the public on tangible matters.

And btw, your "collegues" at the Mackinac Center generally dislike anything related to government and public service, so I can appreciate your vantage point.

JBDaddy

February 1st, 2018 at 2:56 PM ^

Before I go posting a mushroom cloud version of a couch burning picture, it'd be nice to have a comparison presented between Michigan State, Penn State, Baylor, Louisville, Arizona, etc.  Not that they're all strictly comparable, but I've not heard what's up with Baylor or Arizona lately... Penn State didn't get nuked, nor Louisville... are those cases still progressing?  (Yes, I know about PSU.  Just an example)  Are they being scrutinized only by NCAA, only in-house, or also by their states or other organizations?  Does the outcome or timeline for any others have a bearing on expectations here?  Finding out what's up elsewhere might temper our own potential for homerism, which is what I'd expect from our fan base, honestly - especially given the last 2 excellent posts.