One-on-one with MSU Interim President Engler: Political connections

ALLIE: "Why did you agree to do this? I mean if you think about what you walked into, does it have anything to do with the political connections that you perhaps have with several people at the university, Bill Schuette, because they're all key players involved in the investigations, does it have anything to do with your relationships with them politically?"

ENGLER: "Well, that's a really poor question for a couple of reasons because Schuette wasn't involved when I came here, Bill Forsyth was a former prosecutor from Kent County he wasn't involved. it had nothing to do with politics at all."

But that’s not entirely true.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette got involved in the Larry Nassar investigation back in October of 2016.

On January 27, 2018, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced that retired Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth would lead an investigation into systematic issues with sexual misconduct at Michigan State University.

A few days later, on January 31st, the MSU Board of Trustees approved John Engler's appointment as interim president. 

Records show, Engler and Schuette have quite a bit of history. Engler, as governor, appointed Schuette as his Agricultural Department Director in the ‘90's. Engler also donated to Schuette's campaign for governor.

So did William Forsyth.

Some also say that Engler was appointed to appease some of MSU’s big donors like Peter Secchia who also contributed to Schuette's campaign.

Engler also currently sits on the board as director of the Grand Rapids based Universal Forest Products, to which Secchia is a shareholder.

But Engler maintains his argument that he took the job simply because he wanted to make things right. 

"You had trustees trying to be operational here in effect,” he said. "It was a mess and so I came because I cared, and I thought I could help."

However, some feel uneasy about Engler's connections to Schuette, including Lisa Lorinz, mother of Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz.

“I think what Schuette did during the Nassar investigation was everything I could have hoped it would be and more,” Lorincz said. “That's where the bar was set. That was so amazing and so great. Now, I feel the opposite." 

The Attorney general's office, under the direction of Schuette, is responsible for putting Nassar behind bars for life, something Lorincz said she's thankful for.

But she’s now concerned that investigators aren't as motivated to get to the bottom of who, knew what, and when at the university.

“There's too much politics involved,” she said. “The original investigation that was done by MSU Police certainly didn't interview the people I would have liked to have seen interviewed. Witnesses that were named and never asked questions."

Lorincz said she wants to see a truly independent investigation saying anything less would be a disservice to the survivors and MSU community. 

"Larry physically assaulted Kaylee, but had people done their job at MSU, it would have never happened. They, in my opinion, are culpable,” Lorincz said. “These girls have a life sentence of dealing with this. I have lost a lot, all of the parents have. We're still struggling, and they get to get up every day, go to work, and get this hefty pension? That's not fair when they enabled it."

"If they don't do this right, they're sending a message that you can continue to get away with it,” she said. “If there’s pay to play politics, they're showing that that's ok.”

Lorincz continued: “If I could just get the trustees to understand, picture if it were your daughter, what would you do?” 

The investigation into MSU is still ongoing and Engler said politics are not involved. 

"I came because the university's in crisis and I thought people realized that. I could see that from Virginia,” Engler said. “I hadn’t been in Michigan for 15 years, I didn't have any connections with anybody at this point. I mean, I know people because I’ve been around a long time, but I came because I love this university and the president resigned and the university's in chaos."  

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