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BU faculty group seeks probe of trustees

A group of Boston University faculty members filed a formal request with Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly Thursday, asking his office to investigate whether BU trustees have violated state laws governing nonprofit institutions.

 

The professors, who call themselves the Faculty Committee for the Future of Boston University, said the recent $1.8 million settlement BU paid Daniel S. Goldin to give up the presidency highlighted a variety of potential problems, including alleged financial conflicts- of-interest on the board of trustees. They also raised questions about other forms of mismanagement such as excessive compensation and nepotism.

"We feel skeptical about the board of trustees' capacity to reform itself," said professor James Iffland in an e-mail interview, referring to the committee on governance the trustees have formed.

Iffland, a professor of Spanish and Latin American studies, is a longtime critic of BU's administration and member of the committee. "The only time any reform occurred in the past was when the former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger was pressuring the board to get its house in order," he said.

Also members of the committee are professor of French and linguistics Carol Neidle, sociology professor Jeffrey Coulter, and math professor David Rohrlich.

A Reilly spokesman acknowledged receiving the letter but declined further comment. A BU spokesman declined to comment.

The committee of professors described their request as a seven-page letter with a variety of appendices and newspaper clippings, but declined to release it. Many of their allegations relate to information reported in the Boston Globe following the Goldin deal, and in years past.

The group operates a "BU Watch" website listing its concerns at bufuture.net.

A decade ago, Harshbarger investigated whether a few trustees had monopolized power and used it to their own financial advantage. His investigation led to a written agreement requiring BU to make changes to its conflict-of-interest procedures and to open power to a wider group.

The agreement expired in 1999 and BU trustees gave up some of the Harshbarger-imposed rules, but kept their regulations governing financial relationships between the university and trustees or their businesses. Last year, there were $30 million in transactions between BU and trustees or their companies and foundations.

"What many of us wonder is whether Goldin's apparent plans to sever business dealings with trustee-related companies were the catalyst for the last-minute rescinding of his appointment," Iffland said.

But a BU lawyer, Michael Gardener said in an interview last month that over a third of that $30 million went to hospitals where trustees sit on the board, and much of the rest to companies that are industry leaders.

"There's not a penny going to the pockets of trustees," Gardener said.

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at bombardieri @globe.com.

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