STATE COLLEGE, Pa. • The head of Penn State’s Board of Trustees said Friday the board isn’t planning a detailed review of the school’s internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
Former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh led the school’s investigation. He and his team of investigators concluded that the late football coach Joe Paterno and three school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky, Paterno’s assistant and onetime heir apparent, conclusions Paterno’s family and the officials deny.
Trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz said the board is focused on implementing changes recommended by Freeh, which is hopes to do by the end of next year, but it did not plan a detailed review of the report itself. She said that would take its course in upcoming trials or other legal channels.
Peetz was responding to a question from the crowd at a trustees meeting, and a few critical audience members chuckled. It was the first time public comment was allowed at a board meeting.
Peetz started off the meeting by saying she understands why many alumni are upset with the Freeh report’s findings and ensuing NCAA sanctions, but she reaffirmed her support for University President Rodney Erickson’s decision to accept the stiff penalties, including a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine.
The Freeh group’s 162-page report issued in July suggested a host of changes that addressed the school’s culture, administration, legal services, reporting of criminal acts, athletic department, campus police, child safety and even the trustees themselves.
The meeting comes nearly three months since jurors convicted Sandusky of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, and amid calls by lawyers for his victims for the university to take actions that will back up its stated goal of settling their civil claims “privately, expeditiously and fairly.”
Those attorneys report having very limited contact with the university and warn that more lawsuits may follow the four now under way.
Since Sandusky was charged more than 10 months ago, eight legal teams that together represent at least 20 people have surfaced. Already dealing with a $60 million NCAA fine and a tarnished reputation, the school faces potential civil claims that could lead to payouts of millions, even tens of millions, of dollars.
Penn State spokesman Dave La Torre said the school has had “multiple conversations” with victims’ lawyers, but offered no specifics, either about the process, how much money might be made available or eligibility standards. He calls it the beginning of a complex process.
Peetz said Friday that while the school faces financial challenges including the NCAA fine, the school’s financial condition is “solid.”
On Thursday, a group of alumni and others with ties to Penn State issued a report critical of Freeh’s methods and conclusion, contending it included lack of disclosure, needed input by key witnesses who were not interviewed and a supposed lack of evidence to back up conclusions about senior university administrators.
The 57-page report by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship said the university should have examined the role of state and local government officials and Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile. It also said Freeh’s approach was incomplete and produced a “grossly flawed” report.
It said the criminal investigations and prosecutions related to Sandusky made it impossible for Freeh’s team to interview some critical figures.
A spokesman for the Freeh Group, Tom Davies, declined immediate comment.
Sandusky, 68, awaits sentencing that will almost certainly send him to prison for the rest of his life.