Starr Gives Up Pepperdine Deanship
He says the end of his investigation 'is not yet in sight'
WASHINGTON (April 16) -- Whitewater Independent Counsel Ken Starr announced Thursday he would not become dean of either the Pepperdine University School of Law or its new School of Public Policy.
Speaking to reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse in Washington, Starr also said he had written to Attorney General Janet Reno saying that "we need to seek mechanisms that will insure a full investigation of fact" in connection with his key Whitewater witness, David Hale.
Starr wrote to Pepperdine University to officially inform the school of his decision, explaining his duties as independent counsel have "expanded considerably, and the end is not yet in sight."
The special prosecutor would not comment, however, on when he will wrap up his investigations into the Monica Lewinsky matter or whether he would send a report to Congress. Starr is looking into whether President Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and urged her to lie about it under oath. Clinton has denied both accusations.
After announcing 14 months ago that he planned to resign Aug. 1, 1997 as independent counsel to accept the dual deanship at Pepperdine, Starr quickly reversed himself, saying it would be wrong to leave the investigation before it was close to closure. The university agreed to keep the job open for Starr.
"Because circumstances will prevent my being on board by the conclusion of the spring term," Starr said, "it is proper for me to withdraw, leaving the university time to have a new dean in place before the next academic year begins."
The special prosecutor has been criticized for a potential conflict of interest by leaving open the possibility that he would join the university even while investigating Clinton.
The School of Public Policy is funded by one of Clinton's most severe critics, millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife has donated $12.7 million to Pepperdine since 1962.
Scaife is also connected to allegations that Hale received money from conservative groups while cooperating as a witness for Starr. The money allegedly funneled to Hale came from The American Spectator magazine, which receives financial support from Scaife.
In a two-page letter to Starr, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder asked Starr's office to investigate the allegations against Hale. Despite questions of conflict of interest, the Justice Department concluded that at this point, Starr holds sole jurisdiction to investigate "obstruction and witness tampering" in the Whitewater probe.
In a letter to Reno responding to Holder, Starr says any contact between Hale and an associate of Scaife occurred before Starr became independent counsel. Scaife's associate's name is Parker Dozhier.
And while Starr acknowledges in his letter that his investigation of Hale "may
involve at most the appearance of a conflict of interest on the part" of
his office, he goes on to say that "the Department of Justice may have not only an appearance problem but multiple actual conflicts of interest in connection with an investigation of Mr. Hale."
Starr told reporters that in the letter to Reno "we suggest that we seek mechanisms that will ensure a full investigation of the facts in a fair way and a comprehensive way that will promote public confidence in the administration of justice, and that we explore that in a careful and thoughtful way with the Justice Department," Starr said.
Starr denied any connection between himself and Scaife, saying, "I have never met him, I have never talked to him, I have had no arrangement -- implicit, explicit, direct or indirect -- with him."
Scaife also denies ever meeting Starr, or exerting any influence over Pepperdine's dean selection. In a March 2, 1997 article in the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scaife is quoted saying he didn't even know in advance that Starr had been designated as dean of the School of Public Policy.
Starr had informally told Pepperdine earlier in the month he was no longer prepared to become dean of either its new School of Public Policy or its School of Law. He is expected to continue to serve as a member of the University's Board of Visitors.
In a press release, Pepperdine said Starr informed the university president David Davenport of his decision April 2, but made the decision official in a
letter dated Thursday.
"We were delighted when Judge Starr agreed to accept the deanships, and we are disappointed that he will not be able to undertake these roles, " Davenport said in a written statement. "Judge Starr and I agree that that University's needs have to be met. Unfortunately, events beyond his control have prevented him from joining us.
"I am proud of the Pepperdine University community and its willingness to stand by its committment to Judge Starr, despite the distractions that have arisen since Pepperdine was first cast into the spotlight with the announcement of his appointments," Davenport said.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Marty Kramer contributed to this report.