Monday, December 29, 2008

Duke's Allison Haltom & the trustees

In response to a recent Dec. 21 post - Why did Duke's trustees enable the frame-up? - a number of you raised questions.

All of you commenting agreed BOT Chair Robert Steel played a lead role in Duke's disgraceful and bungled response to events which grew from the lies of Crystal Mangum.

But many of you pointed out it's impossible to say now whether most trustees were involved in "front end" decision making or merely rubber stamped what was put before them.

There were comments noting it's impossible to say at this time what, if any, information most trustees had before the public had it.

Then there's the question of how much confidence to place in assertions which began circulating as early as Spring 2006 that some trustees had expressed misgivings among themselves, to President Brodhead and senior administrators, and others with major connections to Duke regarding one or more of Duke's actions and inactions related to the hoax and frame-up attempt.

Many critical questions about the trustees' awareness and decision-making during the hoax, frame and cover-up will only be answered during discovery in the suits now pending before a federal court in Greensboro, NC.

If and, as I think, when we do start to get answers to "trustee questions," one of those who may lead in providing them is someone even most people who've followed the case closely have never heard of: Allison Haltom, Duke's recently retired University Secretary.

The following, via, is an extract from the complaint filed Dec. 18, 2007 in federal court by attorney Robert Ekstrand on behalf of three members of the Duke Men's 2006 lacrosse team who were not indicted.

B. The CMT’S Acts in Furtherance of the Conspiracy

414. On or before March 25, 2006, Defendant Steel directed Defendant Brodhead to create a Crisis Management Team (“CMT”) to manage the University’s actions relating to the investigation of Mangum’s claims.

The original participants in the CMT were Defendants [BOT chair] Steel, [President] Brodhead, [Provost] Lange, [VP] Trask, [VP] Burness, and [VP] Moneta. Defendant Victor J. Dzau [Chancellor for Health Affairs, and President and CEO of Duke University Health Systems, Inc.] was added to the CMT shortly after it became clear that DUHS and Tara Levicy were critical to the State’s case.

Defendant Allison Halton (sic) [the University’s Secretary] was also added to the CMT following its first meeting on March 25, 2006 (emphasis added)
For many years at Duke Haltom's principal duty involved trustee liaison.

Here’s part of a Duke News story released in connection with Haltom's retirement celebration :
. . . At a retirement party for her Tuesday, President Richard H. Brodhead listed her many Duke roles and concluded, “I learned today that you did nursing admissions. What have you not done?". . .
Haltom served under four presidents. As university secretary, she ensured members of the Board of Trustees were kept abreast of university issues and oversaw presidential transitions. In 2001, she took over the duties of university marshal, which include the operations of major university ceremonies such as commencement. ...
This excerpt from a Dec. 10, 2007 Chronicle story on her retirement:
As University secretary, Haltom manages the activities of the Board of Trustees, serves as the University marshal-which oversees major ceremonies like commencement-and has either chaired or served on most hiring committees for the University's senior officials, including the search committee for President Richard Brodhead.

"She makes the trains run on time," said John Burness, senior vice president for government affairs and public relations, whom Haltom considers one of her best friends. "Whoever is the University secretary has the inevitable position of both working for the President and working for the Board.... We're loaded with big thinkers, and if you don't have someone in the group who pays attention to the details, the logistics of managing 40-odd people [on the Board] will not get done."

When she retires, the majority of Haltom's responsibilities will be divided between Richard Riddell, special assistant to the president, who will handle the larger duties dealing with the Board, and Laura Eastwood, the current associate University secretary, who will handle many of the day-to-day communications with Trustees.

"The University is splitting Allison's position into two jobs because they don't believe one person can do it," Burness said. "What happens sometimes is you find really competent people like Allison who can juggle many different responsibilities and end up with them because they are so damn good at it. And then when they leave, you realize that the responsibilities are more than one person can handle.". . .

The decision to add Haltom to the CMT after its initial Mar. 25, 2006 meeting strongly suggests Steel knew then Duke was in for "a long haul," and that trustees would rightly have many questions and want to be kept informed as things developed.

I believe Steel, Brodhead, and other senior administrators communicated with certain key trustees. Haltom no doubt was liaison for the rest and very likely for key trustees from time to time.

It’s safe to say within the CMT group, she was not to any great extent a decision-maker. Her role would have been more to communicate between and among trustees and senior administrators.

More than almost all others, Haltom knows what happened during the hoax and frame at the upper levels of Duke. She was surely the bearer to the CMT of many suggestions, concerns and questions from trustees. And she knows how the CMT reacted to them.

It's hard to overstate how important Haltom’s inside knowledge can be to helping courts and the public understand what the key Duke decision-makers did when they were outside the public spotlight and how Duke's BOT has funtioned since it began hearing the lies Mangum told.

Allison Haltom is someone to remember.

Here are the Duke News and Chronicle stories in full.


Anonymous said...

Haltom represented Durham's Child Care Council in a funding request before the County Commissioners in 1999 :

(name misspelled as "Halton")

And her Duke retirement article notes :

"...her contributions on child care issues in Durham have been honored with several awards."

These are certainly worthy efforts, but I wonder if she might have crossed paths with Cy Gurney at some point?

JWM said...

To Anon @ 3:50,

Thank you so much for your comment and link.

I plan to put them on the main page tomorrow and remind people of who Cy Gurney is.

It's extraordinary all the close connections between people very close to Nifong and other Durham framers and leading Duke figures who were his enablers.