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The total bill for an independent investigation into a campus cover-up of a student's murder at Eastern Michigan University is nearly $450,000, the lead investigator confirmed Thursday. The financial fallout of the botched handling of information in the dorm room rape and slaying of 22-year-old Laura Dickinson could hit nearly $1.5 million when the costs of the independent probe, severance agreements and anticipated federal fines are totaled.

EMU officials have not said how the those costs could affect the university's budget. But Regent Jim Stapleton said Thursday that the cost of the law firm's report was justified.

"I really don't know how you can put a pricetag on the safety of students," Stapleton said. "The report has shown where we need to improve and how we can go about the business of making our campus safer."

The Board of Regents commissioned the Butzel Long law firm to investigate what occurred in the wake of student Laura Dickinson's death last December. In a nearly 600-page report, Butzel Long laid blame on several administrators for failing to warn the public about the suspicious nature of Dickinson's death, despite significant evidence that pointed to homicide.

That report, and a U.S. Department of Education investigation, led to the firing this week of EMU President John Fallon and the forced retirements of Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Vick and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall. EMU has agreed to pay out about $542,000 in severance and contract agreements with Fallon, Vick and Hall.

The Department of Education cited EMU for seven Clery Act violations - which one expert said could lead to as much as $412,500 in fines - but a decision on the penalties isn't expected for nearly 60 days.

Rich Hewlett, a partner in Detroit-based Butzel Long, said the probe involved 1,831 total hours work, amounting to about $430,000 in attorney fees and $19,000 in administrative and clerical costs.

The law firm's report, released June 8, faulted EMU for a variety of systemic administrative failures - including lax reporting of crime statistics, inadequate disclosure of campus security policies and failure to update its daily crime log.
Despite the probe's findings, Butzel Long said it could not conclude that EMU officials were acting out a desire to protect the university's reputation.

The firm's team of four lawyers conducted 80 interviews and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of documents, Hewlett said.

Butzel Long investigators also worked on EMU's behalf during the Department of Education probe, Hewlett said.

Hewlett would not say if it was the largest probe the firm had done, but said the public nature of the case and the level of detail in the report were noteworthy.
Stapleton said EMU interviewed three law firms before selecting Butzel Long for the job.

Stapleton said the law firm will help EMU analyze new policies as they are developed, and will also review the university's response to the government's report, which is due by Aug. 3.


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