Investigator gave lie-detector test to player

Updated: February 17, 2004, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- A former FBI agent resigned from the panel that will investigate the University of Colorado recruiting scandal Tuesday after it was revealed that he once gave a lie-detector test to a university football player tied to the alleged rapes of three women.

Board of Regents Chairman Pete Steinhauer said Kenneth Vardell had quit. Steinhauer said he did not plan to find a replacement to fill the eighth spot on the panel, which will begin work next month.

Vardell did not return a message seeking comment late Tuesday. Earlier, he said he would step aside if asked, though he did not believe the polygraph exam given more than two years ago constituted a conflict of interest.

Vardell, who describes himself as a consultant for investigators and is the father of a National Football League player, said he was only doing his job. The 63-year-old said he has done thousands of tests.

"As a polygraph examiner, I am a seeker of the truth," he said. "A conflict of interest suggests a bias. How can seeking the truth be a conflict of interest?"

Vardell gave the test to Marques Harris, a Colorado football player who pleaded guilty to giving alcohol to minors at an 2001 off-campus party.

That party is at the heart of three federal lawsuits filed against the school by women who say they were raped by football athletes at the Boulder apartment or in a dorm room afterward. (Harris said he was not involved with any sort of sexual assault and the polygraph results backed him up, according to police files.)

Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan did not charge anyone with a sex crime after the party, though Harris and three other football players were convicted of giving alcohol to a minor, a misdemeanor.

The school is at the center of a firestorm over the lawsuits. Keenan has said that the school uses sex and alcohol to lure recruits, prompting a warning from the governor.

University officials have denied the allegations, but they faced more controversy Tuesday with an allegation from former player Katie Hnida that she was raped by a football player in the summer of 2000.

University President Elizabeth Hoffman urged Hnida to tell her story to police.

The investigative panel has met with mixed reaction. Co-chair Joyce Lawrence was criticized after suggesting the women put themselves at risk by attending the alcohol-fueled party, and some have questioned why there is no victim's advocate on the panel.

A second commission member told reporters he was not surprised his appointment had been questioned because of his close friendship with former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney.

Phillip Porter, a Pentecostal Bishop, once helped lead the Promise Keepers religious movement launched by McCartney.

Porter was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Regent Tom Lucero, who nominated him, said Porter has no plans to resign. He said Steinhauer has told him he wants him to remain on the commission but doesn't know how the majority of the board feels.

Porter said he had warned his family to be prepared for controversy when he was appointed.

"When you do public service, people want to know who you are," he said. "I think there really is some question [in the minds of some] on whether I could serve impartially."

Asked whether he would be disappointed if asked to resign, he said, "I'll only be disappointed if the panel asks me to step down and doesn't replace me with another member of the clergy" and "a person of color." Porter is black.

Besides Vardell and Porter, others appointed to the commission Monday were former state Supreme Court justices Jean Dubofsky and Luis Rovira, attorney David Powell and Broomfield judge Jacqueline St. Joan. Lawrence is co-chairing the panel with another former lawmaker, Peggy Lamm.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press