The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Harrington Releases Statement Amidst Investigation

Under scrutiny for accepting gifts from deceased dean Cecilia Chang, Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of the University, released a statement in an email to the University community.

In the statement, Harrington pleaded for patience as the investigation by Frank Wohl, of Lankler Siffert & Wohl, an independent law firm, looks into the matter.

“I ask the University community to respect the review that is underway,” Harrington said in the statement. “I expect that at the end of this process, I will be able to say more about these issues.”

Wohl was hired by the University Board of Trustees and was the same attorney used when initially investigating Chang’s embezzlement.

In a report by New York Magazine, it was alleged that in May of 2003, Harrington, along with his chief of staff Rob Wile and Wile’s then-girlfriend, a 22-year old sophomore at the University, took a trip to the Caribbean tourist island Turks and Caicos. The expenditures during the trip, according to the report, came out to nearly $10,000 – all paid for by Chang’s University credit card. Harrington, who at the time of the trip was grieving the death of his father, claims he was under the impression the trip was a gift from Chang.

Wile is also under scrutiny as records obtained by the Torch show that he had spent $300 at a casino in Las Vegas, nearly $650 at two New York City nightclubs and more than $450 at a Westbury liquor store all on Chang’s card.

Harrington also said he would decline to comment any further on the matter, until the investigation was finished.

“At this time, therefore, in order to maintain the integrity of the ongoing review process, it is appropriate that I refrain from any further discussion of these matters until that review is complete.”

Harrington’s full statement can be seen here.

I understand that many of you rightfully have questions regarding recent reports stemming from the Cecilia Chang matter.

There is a lot that I would like to say in connection with the issues that have been raised. However, in response to the new reports, the Board of Trustees, with my full support, has engaged Frank Wohl of the law firm Lankler Siffert & Wohl to review certain issues and provide advice going forward.  Mr. Wohl is a highly qualified attorney who specializes in this type of review.

At this time, therefore, in order to maintain the integrity of the ongoing review process, it is appropriate that I refrain from any further discussion of these matters until that review is complete.

As some of you may recall, when concerns of fraud surrounding Cecilia Chang’s travel reimbursement requests first surfaced in 2010, the University undertook an independent investigation through FTI Consulting LLP, a nationally respected forensic investigation firm. That investigation was directed and overseen by the Board of Trustees with the cooperation of University administration. The results of that investigation raised significant concerns that Cecilia Chang had engaged in fraud. At that time, we unanimously agreed to refer the investigation findings to appropriate law enforcement agencies. The University pledged its full cooperation and support to the various investigators including the Queens District Attorney, the US Attorney, the FBI and the IRS. We have full confidence in the comprehensive investigations that were done by each of those law enforcement agencies, which found that the wrongdoing was limited to Cecilia Chang.

I ask the University community to respect the review that is underway. I expect that at the end of this process, I will be able to say more about these issues. I greatly appreciate your patience as we remain focused on serving our students.

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About the Contributor
Anthony O'Reilly
Anthony O'Reilly, News Editor
Anthony has been one of the most, if not the most, loyal person at this paper. His passion and his dedication to reporting and production is unparalleled. In the last few weeks, he has demonstrated the qualities of a leader and a coach that are required for this position. I have nothing but confidence that Anthony will do a great job. He will serve you, the reader, by providing the most honest, objective news possible. —Terence Cullen News Editor, Emeritus
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