University defends O’Connor following recent media coverage

In response to recent media coverage involving current Board of Trustees chairman Patrick O’Connor’s involvement in a 2004 lawsuit involving Bill Cosby and former university employee Andrea Constand, the university has released statements in defense of the longtime lawyer and trustee.

O’Connor told the Inquirer that the release of new excerpts from the deposition from that lawsuit were “one-sided,” and that the release of the deposition transcript violated the case settlement’s terms.

However, Temple Association of University Professionals president Art Hochner said that O’Connor should have either stepped down from the board in 2005, or asked Cosby to find another lawyer.

“Certainly Cosby’s reputation and the stain on it spreads to Temple,” Hochner told the Inquirer. “I think [O’Connor’s representation of Cosby] shows error in judgment as a lawyer.”

But the university defends O’Connor’s representation of Cosby, and released a statement Tuesday evening that said his actions were within the board’s policy.

“Trustees are subject to a long-standing policy of the Board requiring regular disclosure of situations involving a potential conflict of interest,” the statement read. “Mr. O’Connor’s representation of Mr. Cosby was disclosed and vetted in accordance with Board policy.  Moreover, we are advised by his firm that Mr. O’Connor’s representation was concluded with the settlement of the civil suit entered into in 2006, and was re-initiated only in early 2015 in connection with a challenge to the confidentiality of that settlement agreement.”

Two other high-ranking university officials – former Chairman and current trustee Daniel Polett and President Neil Theobald – have also sided with O’Connor’s actions.

“Patrick O’Connor has served as a Temple trustee for more than 27 years, giving generously of his time, wisdom and resources to an institution and a mission that he holds near and dear,” Polett said in a statement. “When he succeeded me as Chairman of the Board in 2009, I said that I was confident that the University was in good hands, and our experience over the past six years has made it clear that confidence was well-placed.  Patrick has provided steady and strong leadership as Temple has risen in stature in Philadelphia and the nation.”

Theobald argued that O’Connor has helped lead the university while it has started several positive initiatives.

“In my two and half years at Temple, Chairman O’Connor has ably led the Board and the University in connection with numerous strategic initiatives, including Flyin4, the Temple Option, and the Visualize Temple master planning effort,” he said in a statement. “In my experience, the highest standards of ethical behavior and the best interest of Temple have always guided the Chairman’s leadership and relationship to the University.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.

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