More than 120 Larry Nassar survivors are urging the Michigan State University Board of Trustees to can interim President John Engler for suggesting in a private email during the height of settlement negotiations that survivor Rachael Denhollander was getting kickbacks from her attorney.
However, numerous sources tell City Pulse and MIRS that Engler isn’t going anywhere when the board meets Friday on an enormous agenda that addresses various other personnel matters, a tuition increase, a tenure issue and the ultimate source of the $500 million Nassar settlement money, among other things.
The agenda is so large the meeting is starting an hour earlier at 8a.m. to make sure everything gets fit in, according to MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant. Public comments were moved to the top of the agenda so people wishing to address the board don’t have to sit through a brutally long meeting to share their thoughts.
The meeting room is still that cramped board room on the 4th floor of the Hannah Administration Building, which wasn’t that cozy until the Nassar scandal drove up public interest. Recently, the school reconfigured the room to fit in more people, but the crowd still spills out into the hallway and there’s been no serious discussion about moving the meeting elsewhere, like maybe the Erickson Kiva.
Regardless of how many people show up, however, Engler’s future with the school isn’t changing unless this week’s MSU trustee retreat spurs a change of heart.
MSU Board members Dianne Byrum and Brian Mosallam have publicly called for Engler’s resignation, but they stand apart on an eight-member board. The majority is more interested in getting moving on the search for a permanent replacement, as opposed to finding another interim, according to sources.
Board members would prefer Engler make an apology to defuse the situation, but there’s no guarantee, at this read, that that’s going to happen.
While Engler’s assessment was insensitive, most likely inaccurate and sloppy — in the sense he did them on his MSU email account, which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act — Engler is making headway in getting Sparty out of the Nassar morass.
He’s stepped on a couple of landmines, including putting himself in a position to be accused of trying to pay off a Nassar survivor in private. But he also got rid of William Strampel, former dean of osteopathic medicine and Nassar’s boss, before Attorney General Bill Schuette pinned criminal charges on him.
He nailed down the $500 million settlement, creating certainty in the financial commitment MSU will make to the survivors. The school isn’t taking state funding cuts from a state legislature that seemed out for blood in early February.
Engler wrote his ill-fated email to Carol Viventi, the school’s vice president and special counsel in the heat of negotiations with national plaintiffs’ attorneys, whom Engler has never had much fondness for.
The long-term reputation of the school needs a lot of work, but Engler wasn’t brought in to address that issue. That’s the job of the next president, who likely will be hired by a board with two new trustees elected by voters in November.
The number of Republicans who have called for Engler to resign likely has plateaued.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Holland, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, want Engler gone, as do various Democratic officials and interest groups that cringed when the former Michigan governor got the job in the first place.
Meekhof and Engler clashed during their closed-door meeting earlier this year. Engler, a former Senate majority leader, took the wrong approach with the current officeholder, who apparently felt as if Engler was telling him how to run his chamber.
In short, there’s no love lost here.
Relentless Positive Action Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t going to call for Engler’s dismissal. Attorney General Bill Schuette, who got a job from Engler as agriculture director after he lost his U.S. Senate race in 1990, isn’t going to call for Engler’s dismissal. House Speaker Tom Leonard, his chief of staff being former Engler aide Dan Pero, won’t call for Engler’s resignation.
Democratic MSU Board of Trustee candidates have started to call on Engler to step down, which may end up being a campaign issue.
Up to now, as many as 15 Democrats are jockeying for two slots on the General Election ballot. Ed Duggan, son of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; Teri Lynn Bernero, wife of the former Lansing mayor; 2010 nominee Dennis Denno; former Democratic Party Finance Director Kelly Tebay; and Muskegon attorney Brianna Scott are the most mentioned candidates at this point.
Who ultimately gets the nominations won’t be decided until the Aug. 25 Michigan Democratic Party convention, during which the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers make their critical endorsements.
It’s much too early to handicap the favorites, but it’s not a reach to presume the nominees will campaign on the desire to see Engler gone ASAP.