When he was chancellor of LSU Health in New Orleans, Larry Hollier came under scrutiny for university policy in a recent LSU investigation, by lobbying for a special scholarship for his grandson and pressuring a program director to accept his grandson’s girlfriend. Violated – and probably violated – state ethics laws.
Last year, Hollier denied involvement in more than $93,100 in scholarships his three grandsons received from members of the LSU Board of Supervisors between 2013 and 2018. “I had nothing to do with the scholarship,” he told a reporter at the time.
But a 24-page LSU compliance report completed in late September suggests that’s not true. A compliance official wrote that “the record directly and repeatedly contradicts” Hollier’s denials.
The emails show that Hollier helped arrange scholarships for each of his grandchildren and prizes worth thousands of dollars for his grandson’s girlfriend.
Hollier also contacted a subordinate—the director of an LSU physician’s assistant program—to recommend recruiting his grandson’s girlfriend. He was ranked 81st out of 119 applicants and was ultimately selected over a candidate ranked 57 places higher.
The director of the program who admitted her, Rachel Chappell, said in an interview that Hollier did not disclose her personal relationship with the candidate.
Chappell said, ‘I really took his recommendation to heart.’ “In retrospect, it was wildly naive of me.”
Frank Wasser, the compliance officer, wrote in his report that Hollier’s actions violated LSU Health in New Orleans’ conflict of interest rules and may have violated state ethics laws.
Wasser cited a law against coercing public employees to provide something of any economic value, as well as a law against participating in any transaction that provides an economic benefit to a family member.
Vassar recommended that LSU’s legal counsel review the matter and consider referring it to the Louisiana Board of Ethics or law enforcement.
It is unclear whether the Office of General Counsel has taken any of these steps. Leslie Capo, a spokeswoman for LSU Health in New Orleans, said the organization is “reviewing the confidential personnel matter” and she could not comment.
Rafael Goyneche, chairman of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said the case would not be taken further than the state ethics board, which can reprimand or fine officers up to $10,000.
“I don’t see any criminal aspect in this,” he said. “This is an administrative and possibly ethics violation.”
Houllier, who stepped down as chancellor a year ago in the wake of separate allegations, including conflict of interest, did not return voicemails and text messages seeking comment. He remains an LSU faculty member and retains a salary that he has previously said is half the more than $1 million he made as chancellor, a position he has held since 2005.
Issues with Hauler’s management practices first came to light with the release of the LSU audit last fall. Among the findings: Houllier lamented unfair pay barriers in 2020 for those in his inner circle, including the top administrator’s son.
That report did not mention Hollier’s involvement with his grandson’s scholarship, although records show the behavior dates back to 2013.
According to the compliance report, that’s when Hollier had a meeting with Williams Jenkins, who was LSU’s interim president at the time, to discuss awarding a scholarship to one of his grandsons. Ultimately, Jenkins awarded a $7,600 scholarship to another grandson, Tyler Cole. Jenkins could not be reached for comment.
Later that year, a hauler assistant forwarded an application to LSU’s vice president’s office, emails show Sam Cole, another grandson. An assistant replied that someone in that office would “see about getting her a scholarship.”
After that scholarship ended, Hollier wrote a letter to the board of supervisors in 2015 describing Sam Cole as an intern who was impressed by his “knowledge, commitment and tenacity”.
“I respectfully request that he continue to receive a scholarship from the LSU Board of Supervisors,” Hollier wrote. He didn’t mention that Sam Cole was his grandson.
Between 2014-17, Sam Cole, a Texas resident at the time, was typically paid fees totaling more than $69,400 by out-of-state students. Records show that all but two LSU students were given more money in the past decade.
Sam Cole’s scholarship came from former LSU president King Alexander, who said he did not review scholarship applications and trusted the board to make selections for him. “These were strictly Board of Supervisors scholarships, with no input from me,” Alexander said.
Board members award roughly 240 scholarships each year, with a total value of more than $1 million. In last year round, the board received more than 500 applications.
There are no specific bars to clear, other than acceptance to the university, and little filters applications for academic excellence, talent or financial need. This gives board members wide discretion to make hand-picked selections.
Out-of-state scholarships are especially “precious,” said one former board member, because the non-resident fee doubles the cost of tuition. And of the 15 scholarships each board member can award each year, only two can be used to cover additional out-of-state costs.
In a 2016 email to then-board member Stephen Perry, Hollier wrote, “I would greatly appreciate it if you could help my grandson with supervisors out of state scholarship.” Perry is giving over $16,000 to her grandson, Maxwell Cole, in the form of two scholarships over the next two years.
In an interview last week, Perry said he had no recollection of Hollier’s message. Perry said that Coles was raised by a single mother in Texas, which may have contributed to her selection.
“I know it doesn’t sound great, but that was a few years ago and I really don’t remember it much,” said Perry, CEO of the New Orleans & Company tourism agency. “If the circumstances are there … and it had to do with things like being a mother, I very well could have said, ‘Sure.'”
In total, more than $77,000 was given to Hollier’s grandchildren in off-state fee waivers. Taylor Terzo, the girlfriend of one of Hollier’s grandsons, also received more than $16,000 in scholarships in 2017 after Hollier said she would contact the board member who sponsored her, Lee Mallett.
Mallett said that he did not remember that Hollier contacted him. “It doesn’t matter,” said Mallett. “I would have looked at the application and determined whether she was eligible.” They also sponsored Terzo two years prior to 2015–16.
Efforts to reach each of Hollier’s grandchildren for comment were unsuccessful. Michelle Cole, their mother, has said that each was qualified and followed proper procedures when submitting their applications. All three graduated from LSU, while Sam Cole made the Dean’s List at least four times.
Hollier also intervened on Terzo’s behalf in 2018 when she was applying for acceptance into the physician assistant program at LSU’s School of Allied Health.
According to LSU’s compliance report, Hollier called program director Chappell and said Terzo “would make an excellent PA based on his professional experience with her”. Chappell said that Houllier never contacted him about a candidate either before or after that.
She was fearful that Hollier might interfere with the coordination of the PA program with the School of Medicine, and told a compliance investigator that Hollier had a “reputation for sidelining people who didn’t do what they requested.” Chappell also really respected his medical opinion, he said.
According to the compliance report, Chappell accepted Terzo over the objection of three other members of the program’s admissions committee, although the report states that his decision was supported by the Allied Health dean.
Terzo’s admission eluded a higher-ranked candidate, who is not named in the compliance report, although the report states that “publicly available information indicates” that the student never received a PA degree.
Chappell defended Terzo, insisting that she was qualified for admission and that the admissions ranking system used several measures that were subjective. Nevertheless, Chappell now calls his actions a “huge mistake”.
“I thought something and it was something else and I’m very sorry for that,” said Chappell, who resigned from LSU last month to take another university job.
According to an online bio, Terzo graduated from LSU last year with a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.