Two people familiar with the situation say Michigan State University’s new general counsel, appointed to help deal with fallout from the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, would make nearly $1.3 million over three years even if he was let go before his contract ended.
The people spoke Wednesday to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the school had not announced the terms of Robert Young’s pending contract. It’s expected to be taken up Friday during the board of trustees’ next public meeting.
The officials said Young could qualify for a full payout even if he were fired for cause. In response to the AP’s reporting, university spokesman Emily Guerrant said the contract wording will be tweaked. While Young could be dismissed for any reason, he would only be denied pay if terminated for cause.
“If Bob Young was terminated for cause, he would not receive a payment for the remainder of the contract,” she said.
Michigan State Interim President John Engler appointed Young, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, in May to replace acting general counsel Kristine Zayko.
Zayko came under criticism for not telling the board about a 2014 investigation of Nassar and complaints about a former osteopathic medical school dean, William Strampel, who is facing criminal charges.
Nassar is serving a de facto life term in prison after pleading guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. MSU trustees are expected at Friday’s meeting to consider approving a $500 million settlement with more than 330 women who sued the school over Nassar’s conduct.
Engler had appointed Zayko, the university’s former deputy general counsel, in March after long-time general counsel Bob Noto announced his retirement in February. A month before Noto’s announcement, a trustee had called for his resignation amid the Nassar fallout.
Zayko later came under criticism from two trustees for not telling the eight-member board about a 2014 investigation of Nassar and complaints in 2005 about Strampel, who is facing charges including misconduct in office and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Young, whom Engler appointed to the state Supreme Court when he was the state’s Republican governor, most recently was picked by Engler to coordinate multiple investigations and lawsuits against Michigan State.
Under the proposed three-year contract – which has not been released publicly – Young would make $425,000 a year plus benefits. He would collect the entire $1.275 million if he were dismissed for cause, the officials said.
There is no such provision in the contract for Engler, who is facing pressure to resign after sending emails to another university official criticizing lawyers for Nassar’s sexual assault victims and suggesting the first woman to go public with her accusations was probably getting a “kickback” from her attorney. Engler could be terminated for cause, and the school would have no other obligation to him other than accrued salary.
A message seeking comment on Young’s pending contract was left with a university spokeswoman.