Friday, May 03, 2013

Embattled president of St. John's University, Fr. Donald Harrington, to step down

From the New York Post

"The embattled president of St. John's University is announcing his retirement today, and his chief of staff has already resigned in the face of an ongoing probe of lavish gifts they received from a corrupt dean at the Queens college who killed herself during a federal fraud trial, among other issues.

Father Donald Harrington, a Vincentian priest, who spent 24 years at the school, emailed his resignation as president to the St. John's community this afternoon. It is effective July 31.

His chief of staff Rob Wile's resignation is effective June 30, sources said."
"The stunning developments follow a series of damning articles in New York Magazine that explored the tight connections between Harrington, Wile and St. John's dean and fundraiser Cecilia Chang.

Chang, the the vice president for international relations and dean of the Institute of Asian Studies, killed herself in November during her ongoing Brooklyn federal trial on charges of embezzling more than $1 million from the school."

I posted about this scandal here after reading an article in Crisis Magazine.  There are still many questions I would like to see answered including:

  • Why did Fr. Harrington participate in business partnerships with Wile that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars?  As a Vincentian priest why would he need to make money in addition to what he is paid as president of a University? 
  • How did the board allow Wile to be paid such an high salary?  Did anyone raise any alarms about this?
  • Why did the University loan Wile money at no interest? 
  • Who on the board allowed these loans and are they still allowed to sit on the board?
  • How did Chang get away with so much corrupt behavior for so many years?  How does a Catholic University not clamp down on corruption quickly?
  • How does the University's Catholic identity fit into this scandal?  Are there going to be major reforms to prevent this corruption from happening again?
  • What is the Vincentian community going to do to prevent their priests from being able to get involved in major business dealings involving corruption?
  • Did Wile pay back every dime of the money he borrowed? 
  • Why is Wile being allowed to resign effective June 30?  Shouldn't the University want him out immediately?
More details on the sleaze involving Harrington and Wile can be found here - Top St. John’s Official Blocked Payback Request

"The 2011 probe of Cecilia Chang, the corrupt former St. John’s dean who stole more than $1 million from the university, revealed that Rob Wile, chief of staff to St. John's president Father Donald Harrington, had charged $25,000 on brands like Prada, Ferragamo, and Lanvin to one of Chang's Taiwanese credit cards, which was billed to a university account. Now sources inside the investigation reveal that they told Harrington in 2011 that Wile should reimburse St. John's at least some of the money. Harrington said he'd consider the recommendation, "but it went nowhere," to the shock of one investigator.

Instead, "Wile got raises," as one source put it, after the investigation began in 2010. That year he received an additional payment of $150,000 in a category marked “other reportable compensation," according to an IRS form. Sources say the $150,000 included a $100,000 retention bonus and $50,000 in debt forgiveness. Wile received $370,000 in interest-free loans from St. John's and that year received more in compensation than any other current employee except the basketball coach, according to documents. He also approved some of Chang's expenses."


Anonymous said...

And why did Fr. Harrington need such expensive suits?

Gen X Revert said...

Good Question! Last time I checked the only suits priests needed were the old black with white collar and black with white collar.