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Trustee Assailed, Special Counsel Hired in Wake of Michigan State Sex Abuse Scandal

[caption id="attachment_8011" align="aligncenter" width="620"]Photo: EQRoy/Shutterstock.com[/caption] As the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal continues to roil at Michigan State University, victims and their families were outraged by a recent report that university trustee Daniel Kelly, a defense attorney, in at least seven cases defended schools that failed to protect students from sex abuse.

Some parents and MSU victims called for Kelly’s resignation, according to Michigan TV station WXYZ, which broke the report late Thursday. But the trustees met Friday morning and Kelly, a member of Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton in Troy, Michigan, remained on the board.

The station quoted Kelly as often arguing that a school was not responsible for what a rogue employee does. In one abuse case involving second-graders, he told jurors, “the touching was always on the outside of the clothing … was very brief and … there’s very strong evidence that [the girls] didn’t know that it was inappropriate when it occurred.” Meanwhile, the Detroit News reported that MSU students and faculty members railed at the trustees meeting Friday, demanding more transparency and trustee resignations. Earlier in the week, 94 percent of the faculty senate had voted "no confidence" in the board for its handling of the Nassar scandal. While Nassar, a former university sports doctor, has been convicted and jailed, more than 100 lawsuits are ongoing against the university and some of its officials and former officials. Other recent legal developments include:

  • MSU named Carol Viventi as vice president and special counsel to interim President John Engler after harsh criticisms of university general counsel Robert Noto and assistant GC Kristine Moore. Viventi, who was approved by the trustees Friday, most recently served as deputy director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. She was also legal counsel to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and was deputy chief of staff and counsel to the state cabinet when Engler was governor of Michigan.
  • On Feb. 13, MSU hired New York-based Kroll to help its Title IX program investigate its spiraling number of sexual misconduct cases. The office has been under scrutiny because in 2014 one victim filed a Title IX sexual misconduct complaint against Nassar, but the investigation cleared him. Before becoming assistant GC, Moore was the investigator on the case.
  •  Engler announced he has started the process to fire Nassar’s former supervisor and supporter, William Strampel, the suspended dean of the university’s osteopathic medical school. Strampel, also a defendant in the lawsuits, has tenure but can be fired for cause. Trustees approved an interim dean on Friday.