(Getty Images)

Michigan State Board Rejects Effort To Oust John Engler

June 22, 2018 - 9:12 am

EAST LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan State University's governing board rejected an effort to oust the school's interim president Friday as trustees met to discuss how to pay for a $500 million settlement with hundreds of women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Trustee Brian Mosallam tried to change the meeting agenda and allow a vote to fire John Engler, who had disparaged victims and their lawyers in emails that surfaced last week. The audience cheered, but the board turned him down, 6-2.

In a written statement, Engler apologized Thursday for saying in an email that one of the most outspoken victims, Rachael Denhollander, probably received a "kickback" from her lawyer. "I didn't give it the consideration it warranted," he said. "That was a big mistake. I was wrong. I apologize."

Board chairman Brian Breslin called Engler's apology "appropriate and appreciated by a majority of the board." But Mosallam said the apology "is too little too late."

Although the primary focus of Friday's meeting is the school's budget, along with the settlement plan, it was heavily attended by people who are fed up with Engler and want him gone.

"John Engler is a monster hiding in plain sight and you allow him to stay. You voted again to allow him to stay. His latest apology, like all of his other statements, simply do not ring true," said Bryan Tarrant, the father of a gymnast victimized by Nassar. "John Engler has proven several times with his statements behind closed doors and his private emails, that he has no moral compass and no moral character, and has no business leading this once great university."

Engler was tapped in February to temporarily lead the university after the crisis surrounding Nassar, who abused hundreds of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment while employed at Michigan State. Nassar is now serving a decades-long prison sentence for molesting patients and possessing child pornography.

Engler's presidency, however, has become tangled in further public relations scandals of his own doing.

"The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get kickback from Manley," Engler said, misspelling attorney John Manly's name.

He exchanged the emails following allegations at a stormy public meeting that Engler was trying to pay off another Nassar survivor, Kaylee Lorincz, without her lawyer's input. Engler later said he remembered the events differently.

In his Thursday statement, Engler said when he started as president in February he never meant to have an adversarial relationship with some of Nassar's victims. He said his speculation about Denhollander "hurt her deeply," and other survivors "suffered greatly."

A grass-roots student group has garnered at least 1,000 signatures in its petition calling for Engler's ouster and is not backing down.

"One apology for the months of anger and disrespect he has shown our community means nothing," said Reclaim MSU spokeswoman Katie Paulot, who will be a sophomore in fall. "Engler has to go, now."

Morgan McCaul, another Nassar victim, said in a written statement she also isn't accepting his apology.

"It is unfortunate that it took over a thousand signatures calling for his resignation and a two-day workshop with his employers for Mr. Engler to produce this apology," McCaul said.