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Details emerge about Engler’s MSU contract

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A six-page employment contract for Michigan State University Interim President John Engler, released by the university on Tuesday, shows Engler’s employment will remain open-ended until the university finds his permanent replacement.

According to the agreement, dated Feb. 5 and signed by Engler on Feb. 19, Engler will be paid an annual salary of $510,399, money that will be donated to a university organization. Engler began work Feb. 5.

The MSU Board of Trustees has the right to terminate Engler’s contract at any time without cause and Engler may terminate the contract with three months’ notice, the agreement says.

The board may terminate Engler with cause if he fails to attempt “in good faith” to perform his duties or follow the legal direction of the board, the agreement states. It can also fire him for misconduct or for violating university policy.

Engler leads the state’s largest university during a monumental time following devastating revelations about Larry Nassar — a former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor who is accused of sexually assaulted more than 250 girls and young women over two decades.

Engler, a Republican and former Michigan governor from 1991 to 2003, has waived health care coverage and retirement benefits. He will receive a car and a driver for university business and the university will pay for work-related travel and expenses.

The board will formally evaluate Engler not less than once a year and Engler agrees to provide the board with oral and written reports as required, the contracts states.

Under the residence portion of the contract, Engler is to use the Cowles House to hold official functions and the “performance of his duties as Interim President.” It was not clear if he would reside there.

Engler’s hiring by the MSU Board of Trustees was accompanied by controversy, in part because as governor nearly 20 years ago, Engler refused to let a United Nations investigator examine the state’s female prisons as part of a sexual assault report.

Engler arrived at MSU after the departure of Lou Anna Simon, who stepped down as president in January after pressure mounted over her handling of the Nassar crisis as it publicly unfolded over 16 months. A Detroit News investigation found Simon was among 14 MSU staff members who received reports about Nassar’s conduct in the years before his arrest and conviction for sex abuse and child porn possession.

Engler is expected to hold the interim post while the trustees — four Democrats and four Republicans — conduct a longer national search for a new president, a position the former governor is not seeking.