Wile Joins Harrington Under Scrutiny
The fraud perpetuated by former dean Cecilia Chang continues to haunt the University, leading to the Board of Trustees retaining outside counsel in the wake of another published report that details more questionable expense reports.
The latest report, from New York Magazine, outlines more than $40,000 in spending from University chief of staff Rob Wile on a credit card provided to him by Chang, and lavish gifts bestowed upon Wile and Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., president of the University – including a nearly $10,000 expenditure on a trip to upscale Caribbean tourist islands Turks and Caicos.
Chang told Wile and Harrington that those expenses were being paid for by donors or Chang herself, but in reality she billed the expenses to the University using fraudulent financial statements, University officials told the Torch on the condition of anonymity.
In light of the report, which was published on February 24th, the Board of Trustees hired white-collar lawyer Frank Wohl, the same outside counsel who helped the Board when the details of Chang’s fraud originally broke in 2009.
“St. John’s Board of Trustees, with the support of the University administration, has engaged Frank Wohl of the law firm Lankler Siffert & Wohl to review certain issues and provide advice going forward,” the University said in a statement to the Torch.
Wohl, in an email to the Torch, declined to comment further, and Wile forwarded the matter to Dominic Scianna, associate vice president of external relations, who did not comment on his behalf.
Wile is a 1999 graduate of St. John’s, having played soccer on an athletic scholarship. He was a member of the 1996 National Championship team and developed a friendship with Harrington after traveling to Rome and London with the team the following summer. Shortly after graduation, Wile was hired in Harrington’s office as an administrative assistant. He quickly rose through the ranks – with three promotions in five years – to chief of staff in 2004, a position he still holds.
The New York Magazine report also details a trip Harrington took to Turks and Caicos in May 2003 in which he took Wile and his then-girlfriend Gabrielle Weir, a 22-year-old sophomore at the University. School officials told the Torch that Harrington was grieving the passing of his father and was under the impression that the trip was a gift from Chang.
Nothing about the trip, including Weir’s status as a student and Harrington and Wile’s role as administrators violated the school’s non-fraternization policy. The policy, found in the employee handbook, only finds intimate relationships to be inappropriate between school employees and “a student, subordinate, or colleague upon whose academic or work performance he or she will be required to make professional judgments.” Harrington did not consult any authorities within the University before the trip, according to University officials. Wile and Weir are now married.
Credit card statements for the card issued to Wile by Chang obtained by the Torch show expenses that include $300 at a casino in Las Vegas, nearly $650 at two New York City nightclubs and more than $450 at a Westbury liquor store. School officials did not dispute the nature of Wile’s expenses, though they did say that some of the numbers were wrong and were taken out of context in published reports.
Harrington testified during Chang’s federal trial last October that he knew of the card’s existence, and that he and Chang personally approved every transaction Wile made on the card, either before it was made or immediately after. University officials confirmed that Harrington was aware of the expenses, but said that he believed they had been paid for directly by Chang or donors, not the University as they ultimately were.
St. John’s general counsel Joseph Oliva also testified in October that every single expense report she filed was fraudulent, and that his office’s internal investigation has only recovered about 80 percent of the original, unaltered statements. At the height of her fraud, New York Magazine reported, reimbursements to her took up 10 percent of St. John’s entire travel and expense budget.