Investigation: Harrington and Wile made ‘errors in judgment’

An independent investigation into the details surrounding Cecilia Chang’s corruption case determined that former St. John’s University President Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M. and his former chief of staff, Robert Wile made “errors in judgment … that led to conflicts of interest,” but also that those relationships caused no financial harm to the school.


Peter D’Angelo, chairman of the Board of Trustees, announced the results of the board-commissioned investigation into issues regarding the case of corrupt former dean Cecilia Chang in an e-mail  Friday afternoon.


The conflicts cited by the investigation, according to D’Angelo, were a real estate transaction involving Harrington, Wile and two loans – one from a former member of the Board of Trustees to both individuals and a personal loan from a University vendor to Wile.


Attorney Frank Wohl of Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP, who ran the investigation, determined that none of those transactions caused financial harm to the University and that there was no criminal wrongdoing by any member of the St. John’s leadership, D’Angelo said.


D’Angelo said that Wohl, as part of his investigation, “had extensive interviews with current and former employees and thoroughly examined all relevant evidence and information including material from the original Chang investigation.”


D’Angelo also detailed new protective measures that have been implemented to improve the checks-and-balances following the revelations that came to light thanks to the Chang case.


The changes include regular one-on-one meetings of the Director of Internal Audit and the Board of Trustees Audit Committee, a revised conflict-of-interest policy, an establishment of a business ethics training program for all managers and the institution of an employee procurement card program to replace employee credit cards.


The policies will be reviewed on an annual basis by the Board, D’Angelo said.


Harrington announced his departure last May after 24 years as University president. St. John’s also confirmed that same day that Wile, a former varsity soccer player at the University, had also resigned from his posts as senior vice president of institutional advancement and athletics and chief of staff to the president.


Chang, a former dean of Asian studies, committed suicide last November a day after testifying in her federal trial on corruption charges.


Revised for print edition released on August 28.