Newby takes Fifth in inquiry, fired from job

Sarah McKenzie

Alonzo Newby, an academic counselor for the University men’s basketball team, will leave his position today after University Vice President of Student Development and Athletics McKinley Boston fired him Friday for refusing to speak about alleged cheating and misconduct.
The former counselor had repeatedly refused to speak with University investigators about his involvement in the scandal.
Ron Rosenbaum, Newby’s attorney, had advised his client to invoke his Fifth Amendment privileges by refusing to speak with the investigators.
When Newby declined to answer questions Friday, the University terminated his employment.
“He again refused to … answer even the most basic questions about his activities,” said Mark Rotenberg, the University’s general counsel. “A decision was made by Vice President Boston to terminate his employment for cause.”
Boston, the University’s vice president of student and academic affairs, has also fallen under scrutiny in the men’s athletics investigation. He has been accused of pressuring a tutor to change her story after a football player allegedly masturbated in front of her.
Newby, 40, has worked for the basketball program for the past seven years and has been on medical leave since April. He has no plans to sue the University for terminating his employment, Rosenbaum said.
The former counselor has never commented on the allegations.
The grounds for Newby’s dismissal, which was approved by the Board of Regents, include offering unethical assistance to student-athletes in their academic work, Rotenberg said.
But some have hinted that University officials stand to gain more by firing Newby than from hearing his testimony.
Jan Gangelhoff, the former office manager in the University’s academic counseling unit who admitted in March that she wrote more than 400 academic papers for men’s basketball players, said she remains skeptical of the University’s motives.
“I feel bad for him because I know how good he was at his job. I know how much he enjoyed working with the players,” Gangelhoff said in a published report. “I know what an impossible situation he was in.”
Gangelhoff has likened Newby’s relationship with men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins to domestic abuse, adding that Haskins was verbally abusive toward Newby and repeatedly threatened to fire him.
But Rotenberg said that Gangelhoff’s skepticism is unwarranted.
“We obviously would not have spent time and energy encouraging him to cooperate if we didn’t think he had valuable testimony, but no one person holds the key to this investigation,” Rotenberg said. “Ms. Gangelhoff knows nothing about the intentions of the regents and the administration, which is to get to the bottom of this story.”
Rosenbaum concurred with Gangelhoff’s assertions that Newby was in a difficult position.
“If you look up ‘between a rock and a hard place’ in the dictionary, you’d see Alonzo’s picture,” Rosenbaum said.
Newby felt he was in a Catch-22 situation because the University would likely fire him whether he testified or not, Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum had tried to secure a severance package for Newby in return for his cooperation in the investigation, but University officials only offered the counselor about $30,000 — compensation called for in his contract.
Newby assumed he had a three- or four-year contract left with the University, Rosenbaum said, adding that the $30,000 severance package offered to Newby was not enough incentive for him to testify.
“He’s at the bottom of the barrel,” Rosenbaum said. “He has walked the plank, and feels he has no future. It’s a very sad, lonely day for Alonzo.”
According to previous reports, Rotenberg has said that the University would not reward any employee for their alleged involvement in the academic fraud and sexual misconduct charges.
Tonya Moten Brown, chief of staff to University President Mark Yudof and head of the investigation, could not be reached for comment on how Newby’s lack of testimony would impact the inquiry.
Brown had hinted at the possibility of Newby’s firing three weeks ago, when he first declared his refusal to speak with investigators.
“Any University employee has an obligation to cooperate with any investigation,” Brown said. She added that the NCAA would probably not look favorably upon anyone who refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Rosenbaum said he feared Newby could face criminal prosecution, since the counselor has been accused of delivering illegal payments to tutors for the men’s basketball team.
Newby’s refusal to cooperate with investigators and subsequent termination come on the heels of another key witness walking out of talks with the University.
According to reports, Elayne Donahue, the retired director of the academic counseling unit, refused to give further testimony to University investigators on June 15 until the University agrees to pay for the full $1,622 fee for a transcript of her previous testimony.
So far, the University has paid half the cost.
“For 10 years I’ve been telling people inside the University that there are problems inside the men’s basketball program,” Donahue said. “For 10 years I was ignored and sometimes harassed for coming forward. Now the University seems to expect that coming forward should cost me money. I refuse to pay.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.