Former LSU President F. King Alexander, former Athletic Director Joe Alleva and a group of past and present members of LSU's Board of Supervisors are relitigating 2013, pointing fingers at one another over who bears the blame for the university’s eight-years-long burial of sexual harassment allegations involving former head football coach Les Miles.
Disagreements among LSU’s former brass and legal counsel have been escalating since LSU’s release last month of a report from the law firm Husch Blackwell about the mishandling of sexual misconduct on campus, including the Miles scandal. The shock waves have pulsed across the country: Under pressure, Alexander resigned from his new job as Oregon State University president, Miles “parted ways” with the University of Kansas and the Baton Rouge law firm Taylor Porter was fired after 80 years of representing LSU.
But while the current LSU board attempts to manage the fallout, former university officials have said in interviews with The Advocate | The Times-Picayune and in emails and documents that they are frustrated with how things have played out. One new measure in particular has ruffled feathers: an LSU board resolution that would express disapproval of the three former LSU board members who participated in the 2013 investigation — Hank Danos, Stanley Jacobs and Bobby Yarborough — and who did not tell the rest of the board at time. The resolution, which is still being drafted, won't name the three former board members, but will spell out that in the future, all board members will have to be notified of such information.
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Yarborough said in a recent interview that it was Alexander’s responsibility to tell the full board. Alexander denied that in a recent interview, and asserted that it was another example of LSU trying to scapegoat him for their problems.
“It was my understanding that Dr. Alexander would notify each board member individually to apprise them of the situation,” Yarborough said. “This is what King told me when I asked him how the board should be notified.
“He told me that he had meetings already set up with many of the board members, in a get-to-know-one-another format, and that he would inform them during those meetings. He added that it may take a little time, but that he would get it done.”
Alexander disputes that account, standing by previous comments that he did not arrive at LSU until the tail end of the Miles investigation, once Yarborough and other board members had already made a decision. Alexander also said that it wouldn’t make sense for him to be in charge of briefing board members on the Miles investigation since he was not at LSU while it happened, nor did he know the specifics of it.
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“Why has everyone blamed me for the Les Miles situation when I wasn’t even at LSU?” Alexander said. “Apparently, all these decisions were being made while I was still at Cal State Long Beach.”
“Once again, they’re trying to throw me under the bus because they probably should have told the other board members themselves,” Alexander added. "[I] was supposed to call each board member and explain what they'd been secretly doing for the past six months?"
Alexander was chosen as LSU’s president in the spring of 2013, but did not assume the position until July 1, 2013. The Miles investigation shows that the three board members and LSU officials largely agreed on what to do about Miles two months before Alexander came to campus — on May 15, 2013. Alexander said he did not know about the May 15 meeting until the details of the Miles investigation became public this year.
Billing records show that Taylor Porter attorneys discussed the investigation with Alexander on June 7, 2013. And Taylor Porter’s work continued into September 2013, which is when Miles signed off on an agreement to stop calling and texting student employees, and to attend training sessions on employment issues and harassment.
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LSU’s current board chairman, Robert Dampf, said last week that LSU wanted to make it clear the actions of board members who kept the Miles investigation from the rest of the board were unacceptable and that “similar personnel matters should be shared with the full board going forward.”
Yarborough, however, shared a recent email from Alleva that backs up his assertion that Alexander should have told the board. Alleva did not return messages to confirm the authenticity of the email, dated April 24 of this year.
“I read The Advocate today and want to let you know that when King was briefed on the Miles situation, it was agreed, that the full board should be aware of the situation and King said he would meet with each board member individually to brief them on the accusations,” Alleva wrote.
The Husch Blackwell report also revealed that Alleva emailed both former LSU Interim Chancellor Bill Jenkins and Alexander in 2013 about the Miles allegations. Alleva wrote to Jenkins in April 2013, telling him that Miles’ “continued employment needs to be seriously considered.”
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Then on June 21, 2013 — as Alexander was preparing to take on the LSU presidency — Alleva told Alexander that he believed LSU could fire Miles for cause because “I specifically told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and he obviously didn't listen.”
Miles’ attorney, Peter Ginsberg, has denied that Miles ever sexually harassed anyone at LSU, though a student accused him of kissing her, suggesting they visit his condo or a hotel together and telling her he was attracted to her. Ginsberg said that Miles was ordered to attend training to learn how to avoid putting himself in situations where people could make “baseless allegations” against him.
Alexander said that by the time he received the email from Alleva, the board had already decided a month earlier — before he was at LSU — how they wanted to handle Miles. Had he bucked the board's decision-making, he said, it would have been viewed as insubordination during his first few weeks on the job.
“I’m brought in after all these decisions were made,” Alexander said. “I thought the whole board knew anyway.”