“This is a heartbreaking and unprecedented situation and he is monitoring it carefully, but no action is being taken at this time.”
Snyder was mulling a move after ESPN aired a story detailing a number of allegations of sexual assault and violent attacks on women occurred with Spartan football and basketball players.
MSU’s athletic director, Mark Hollis, announced his retirement Friday after MSU President Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation Wednesday night. The MSU board met on Friday and board members promised change.
The departures from the MSU administration came after Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who also was employed by Michigan State, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 girls and young women, including some MSU athletes.
Republican consultant Dennis Lennox filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims on Thursday seeking to order Snyder into calling inquiries into removal of all members of the MSU Board of Trustees.
“Today, the members of the MSU Board of Trustees admitted their inaction contributed to the university’s failure to safeguard,” Lennox said in an e-mail. “It is time for the governor to convene an inquiry, pursuant to the constitution, and consider removal for gross neglect of duty, malfeasance and misfeasance.”
Legal experts voiced differing views on whether Snyder could hold an inquiry aimed at removing Simon, since universities have some constitutional autonomy and she was appointed by the MSU board, not by Snyder. That question is now moot with respect to Simon, following her resignation. But Michigan constitutional experts generally agree Snyder could take such action against the MSU trustees, since they are elected officials.
The constitution says the governor, after an inquiry, may remove or suspend from office any elected or appointed officer “for gross neglect of duty or for corrupt conduct in office, or for any other misfeasance or malfeasance,” except for officials in the legislative or judicial branches of government.
Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm convened such an inquiry in 2008, aimed at removing former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick amid his troubles involving perjury and allegations of misconduct in office. Kilpatrick resigned before the inquiry was completed.
Several investigations into MSU are pending, including one promised by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Schuette said on Twitter on Friday that his investigation is already under way, and he scheduled a Saturday news conference.
Metro Detroit public relations consultant Bill Nowling, who was Snyder’s press secretary during his 2010 campaign, suggested on Twitter on Friday that two former judges involved in the Detroit bankruptcy — former U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen and former U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes — should be asked to lead the MSU investigation. Rosen and Rhodes started a judicial arbitration and mediation service after they left their judicial posts.
If Snyder did act to remove MSU trustees, the two major political parties are prepared to help determine who will be possible replacements for the board.
“If the governor removes the board, it’s critical that he not use this as a political power grab,” said Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon. “He should reflect the same political balance on the board and obviously we would want to have input into that process.”
The board currently has a four-four split between Republicans and Democrats.
Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party, said they’re leaving it up to Snyder’s discretion on who will replace the board, “but it’s something we’ll discuss internally and offer names if we’re asked.”
Two Republicans, William Deary of Jackson and Dave Dutch of Traverse City, have expressed interest in running for the MSU board, even before the Nassar scandal exploded.
On the Democratic side, there already have been a number of people who have expressed interest in running for the two open seats on the MSU board in November, although Dillon wouldn’t reveal any names.
“If and when that happens, we’ll have a list of names and we’ll be prepared to work with him very quickly,” Dillon said. “Since the parties are responsible for nominating candidates to run for the university board seats, we would hope the party would have a prominent role in determining who those replacements would be.”
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4