Michigan State plans to fire official over Nassar scandal
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University said Friday it plans to fire a high-ranking administrator who told police he never followed up after ordering sports doctor Larry Nassar to have a third person present during certain treatments.
It is the first major personnel action announced by interim President John Engler, who was hired after Lou Anna Simon resigned under a storm of criticism about the university’s handling of Nassar, who is serving decades in prison for molesting girls and women and for possessing child pornography. The scandal has led to numerous people being forced out of their jobs.
Dr. William Strampel was dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, which includes the sports medicine clinic, until he announced a leave of absence for medical reasons in December. He still has tenure, however, which protects his employment as a Michigan State faculty member.
Engler said he will ask a faculty committee to revoke Strampel’s status.
“William Strampel did not act with the level of professionalism we expect from individuals who hold senior leadership positions, particularly in a position that involves student and patient safety,” Engler, a former Michigan governor, said in a statement.
“Further, allegations have arisen that question whether his personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU’s standards,” Engler said. “We are sending an unmistakable message today that we will remove employees who do not treat students, faculty, staff, or anyone else in our community in an appropriate manner.”
Engler said he is confident that a faculty panel will find there is good cause to revoke Strampel’s tenure. Strampel also is being sued by many of Nassar’s victims, but the university will not cover his legal expenses.
Strampel’s lawyer, Steven Stapleton, declined to comment on Engler’s announcement.
The Michigan attorney general’s office, which is investigating how Michigan State responded to complaints about Nassar, recently asked the school for Strampel’s computer, cellphone and work calendars.
In 2014, Strampel ordered Nassar to have another medical staffer in the room when providing treatment to “anything close to a sensitive area.” He also said any skin-to-skin contact needed to be explained in detail.
“I am happy to have you back in full practice,” Strampel told Nassar in an email.
Nassar was fired in 2016 for violating the rule. His dismissal came less than a month after former gymnast Rachael Denhollander filed a criminal complaint saying Nassar had sexually assaulted her with his hands while treating her for back pain years earlier.
Strampel told a campus detective and FBI agent in 2017 that he had never followed up to see if Nassar was following the order because Nassar had been “exonerated” in an investigation of a patient’s complaint and the imposed guidelines were “health care 101.” They apparently did not talk much. Strampel told police that he did know that Nassar had left USA Gymnastics in 2015. He assumed he still was working with gymnasts at the 2016 Olympics.
Also Friday, the school announced the paid suspension of Dr. Suresh Mukherji, chief medical officer of the MSU HealthTeam, from his role as chairman of the radiology department pending a review of concerns about his “leadership and departmental communications.” Spokesman Kent Cassella pointed to Mukherji’s suspension while reminding faculty and staff of Engler’s expectation that everyone fully cooperate with all Nassar-related inquiries and investigations.
Mukherji also was interviewed last year as part of a joint campus police and FBI investigation into restrictions that were supposed to have been put on Nassar.
He said then that he had been in the chain of command between Strampel and Nassar, but Strampel and another doctor did most of the day-to-day supervision and decision-making related to MSU Sports Medicine.
Also Friday, an outside lawyer hired by the university said the school turned over about 45,000 pages of material, including Strampel’s electronic calendar entries, to a special independent counsel appointed by state Attorney General Bill Schuette. He had wanted records by Friday, as did two legislative panels and two congressional committees. A third congressional panel has requested information by Feb. 22.
“We are cooperating with all investigations and inquiries,” Cassella said. “We are working with them to negotiate deadlines as we continue to provide the requested materials.”
Members of Congress are also investigating the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, Twistars USA Gymnastics Club — a Lansing-area facility where Nassar molested athletes — and the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, where Oympic gymnasts have said Nassar molested them under the guise of treatment at U.S. National team training camps.
Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.