The Office of the Attorney General has selected a Philadelphia law firm to investigate how the University of Connecticut has handled allegations of sexual assault on the part of a former music professor.
Drinker Biddle & Reath was selected from a group of 28 law firms that answered the request for bids to represent UConn's Board of Trustees. The request was made this summer following revelations that UConn officials didn't take prompt action against the professor, Robert Miller. According to police reports that were made public in June, allegations of sexual misconduct against Miller were known by at least one university employee as far back as 2006.
The allegations against Miller, who started working at UConn in 1982, were made public in June. Miller was placed on paid administrative leave in June and has not been charged with any crime.
Miller is also accused of molesting children off campus, including several boys who attended a camp for sick children. In its request for proposals, the Attorney General's Office, which normally represents state agencies in legal matters, explained that it sought an outside firm "because of the complexity of the issues and the variety and magnitude of resources required."
The deadline for the bids was July 29. A selection committee was created, consisting of Timothy S. Fisher, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law, Henry Salton, assistant attorney general and head of the AG's Health and Education Department and Kimberly Massicotte, assistant attorney general and head of the agency's Environment Department.
After reviewing the submissions, the committee narrowed the list down to six finalists. Among them, the firms with offices in Connecticut included Day Pitney; McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter and Wiggin and Dana. In addition to Drinker Biddle, the other finalists were the firms Ballard Spahr and Pepper Hamilton.
In making its determination, the committee wrote in a memorandum about its selection that Drinker Biddle "was clearly the best choice."
"Drinker Biddle was the only firm that presented a team whose members [as opposed to the team as a whole] had all of the skills and experience sought in the RFP," the memorandum says. "Not only did the lead team members have in-depth experience working with institutions of higher education, but also they had experience in conducting investigations of allegations of sexual misconduct at collegest and universities."
According to the contract Drinker Biddle signed with the state, the firm will conduct an institutional review to determine whether university policies or state laws were violated by the university in its handling of the allegations against Miller.
If evidence of a crime is uncovered by the investigation, that information will be shared with law enforcement authorities, the contract says.
An important part of the investigation will include whether the university violated Title IX procedures, the contract says. Under federal law, "once a school has notice of a possible sexual assault or sexual harassment of students, it must take prompt and effective steps" to eliminate it, the contract says.
Under the contract, Drinker Biddle will bill at a rate of $300 per hour for an associate. That rate was not the highest or the lowest, but was "within the range of rates established by the other firms," the hiring memorandum says.
In its decision to recommend the hiring of Drinker Biddle, the committee pointed out that the firm had no past or present relationship with UConn. That is important, the memorandum says, because the firm's independence from the school will not be "reasonably" called into question.
The state has budgeted $250,000 for the legal work, but that figure could increase as the investigation moves forward. The investigation is supposed to be completed within two years.