The rest of the story: George Perles

The intriguing thing about politics is that more often than not, the stories you read are not always the full story. What you see may not be what is really going on because for one reason or another, certain “facts” are often omitted which brings us to the departure of 84-year-old George Perles from the MSU Board of Trustees.

As Paul Harvey was fond of saying, here is the rest of the story.

Everyone in this town knows that the former MSU football coach and athletic director was in ailing health. Every time he showed up for a board meeting he was in a motorized wheel chair, his participation in debates was limited and while he remains as cogent as ever with a great sense of humor, you could tell he was not doing well.

Against that backdrop then, at first read, lots of folks were willing to take at face value his resignation letter as he told Spartan nation he was hanging it up for the last time effective immediately. His correspondence made it clear he wanted to give his wife Sally some relief and his health concerns were driving this decision.

But the more you thought about it, something didn’t fit.

First of all as a good Democrat the “proper” thing to do would to have resigned after the first of the year thus allowing the new incoming Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer to choose his replacement. Recall that Democrats for eight long and arduous years have had very little power and now here was a chance for them to get back in the game to use that power to reward some of their own.

As it was, his decision to go now, handed the authority to a GOP governor who would likely pick a Republican for the vacancy thus reducing the board from a 6-2 Democratic advantage to 5-3.

Maybe Mr. Perles did not realize the political implications of his decision?

The deep thinkers quickly dismissed that and moved quickly to the speculation game suggesting that MSI interim president John Engler, a Republican, and his Democratic buddy on the board Joel Ferguson chatted with Mr. Perles and somehow convinced him to help Rick Snyder and not Gretchen Whitmer.

Were these two guys capable of such a pitch? Would they ever confirm it if it was true?

Does the bear do his business in the woods?

Well once the D’s read the resignation letter they went to work to convince Mr. Perles to walk back his decision and delay it until January first.

And so the phones began to buzz.

Word even reached this listening post that the current head of the Teamster’s union Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. was being asked to call.

Say what?

You see Mr. Hoffa played for coach Perles and the two had a deep and abiding friendship and the D’s had their fingers crossed that a gentle nudge from Mr. Hoffa might produce a reversal.

While all this was unfolding, word came that the coach had granted an interview to the local sports director at WLNS-TV in town for that afternoon.

A quick call was made to ask Fred Heumann to ask the coach if he would bend to this request and change his date?

About an hour later, the phone rang with the answer. Coach was not changing his mind. He was aware of the pressure but his decision was final.

But the central and nagging question remained, why would he diss his own party?

The MIRS newsletter news hounds were also digging around and published this.

Months ago in the middle of her campaign for governor, Ms. Whitmer suggested Mr. Perles resign from the MSU board when his name was linked to yet another allegation relating to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal that engulfed everything on the banks of the Red Cedar.

And on top of that, back in 2014 when Mr. Perles wanted to retire, he wanted his son to run for his trustee seat, so he asked the Democrats to do the hand-off. But it got fumbled in the backfield because, turns out, the son has worked for two decades for the DeVos family and the Democratic power brokers were loathed to reward anyone associated with those arch enemies.

For some reason or other all of this speculation stuff was left out of the Perles resignation letter.