Penn State board of trustees takes responsibility for failures

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State's investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal concludes that the administrators who fielded a 2001 complaint about him created a dangerous situation for future victims by not reporting the matter.

The Freeh Group's report issued Thursday said that in order to avoid bad publicity, president Graham Spanier, football coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "repeatedly concealed critical facts."

The report says the men "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."

The report says all four knew about a 1998 investigation into Sandusky that didn't result in criminal charges at the time, but none alerted the trustees and none took further action against Sandusky.

The report includes a series of emails among school administrators following two accusations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001. In one of the emails, one official worries about becoming "vulnerable" if they fail to report an allegation.

Curley opted not to report Sandusky for an alleged assault of a boy in the football locker room showers in 2001,  Schultz called the decision to try and get Sandusky to seek professional help "humane." But he also noted that "the only downside for us is if the message isn't (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."

After learning about the 2001 abuse from then graduate assistant Mike McQueary, the report stated that Paterno said, "You did what you had to do. It is my job now to figure out what we want to do."

During a news conference Thursday morning Freeh said the "tone at the top" for police reporting and child protection was completely wrong.

Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts. The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and the school's president.

Meanwhile, Paterno's son denies the late coach took part in a cover-up of child sex abuse, saying his father never attempted to conceal reports of abuse Sandusky.

Scott Paterno says the family is planning more lengthy response later to the internal investigation.  The family also released a statement in which it said Sandusky was a "great deceiver" who fooled Paterno and administrators alike.

Freeh's investigation found Paterno knew about reports of abuse in 1998 and 2001 but concealed that information along with other high-ranking school officials to avoid bad publicity.

Scott Paterno disputed that assertion, saying the family's reading of the report is there's no evidence his father was part of a cover up.

Spanier’s attorneys released to following statement Thursday concerning the report on behalf of Spanier: “As a former Federal Judge and a former United States Attorney, we appreciate and respect the investigative efforts of the Freeh Group and the comprehensive report they have today provided the Board of Trustees of Penn State University.

Unfortunately, Judge Freeh’s conclusion, repeated often during his press conference this morning, that Dr. Spanier was engaged in a course of “active concealment,” is simply not supported by the facts or by the report itself.

Not only did Dr. Spanier never conceal anything from law enforcement authorities, but prior to 2011 he was never contacted by law enforcement officials, or any other officials, about any criminal activities now attributed to Sandusky.  And as he told Judge Freeh himself last Friday and has steadfastly maintained, at no time in his 16 years as President of Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of any incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct, or criminality of any nature.

While we disagree with certain of Judge Freeh's conclusions, Dr. Spanier joins with others in hoping that the University will never have to endure such a traumatic chapter again.  This has been a painful episode in the history of a great university, and the thoughts and prayers of Dr. Spanier, and all of us, continue to be with the victims and their families.”

Penn State's trustees said Thursday they accept responsibility for failures of accountability in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal but that no members of the board would step down in the wake of a scathing independent investigation report that chided them.  

"We are accountable for what's happened here," trustee Kenneth Frazier said. "Our hearts remain heavy and we are deeply ashamed."  

Board chair Karen Peetz also said the board "accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred."  

The trustees responded to the release earlier of a report from special investigator Louis Freeh, who concluded beloved late coach Joe Paterno and other top administrators covered up Sandusky's conduct to avoid bad publicity.


 

Freeh released remarks concerning his investigation Thursday morning. Below are his comments on the findings of the report:

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never
demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.


In critical written correspondence that we uncovered on March 20th of this year, we see evidence of their proposed plan of action in February 2001 that included
reporting allegations about Sandusky to the authorities. After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities. Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.

Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, about what McQueary saw in the
shower on the night of February 9, 2001. The stated reasons by Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley for not taking action to identify the victim and for not reporting Sandusky to the police or Child Welfare are:


(1) Through counsel, Messrs. Curley and Schultz have stated that the “humane” thing to do in 2001 was to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague but troubling allegations.


(2) Mr. Paterno said that “I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed
away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”


(3) Mr. Spanier told the Special Investigative Counsel that he was never told by anyone that the February 2001 incident in the shower involved the sexual abuse of a
child but only “horsing around.” He further stated that he never asked what “horsing around” by Sandusky entailed. Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large. Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.


The evidence shows that these four men also knew about a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to suspected sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower. Again, they showed no concern about that victim. The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s. At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr.
Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.

Based on the evidence, the only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 by Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, and then agreeing not to do so on February 27th, was Mr. Paterno’s February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley.

We never had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Paterno, but he did say what he told McQueary on February 10, 2011 when McQueary reported what he saw Sandusky doing in the shower the night before: “You did what you had to do. It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.” Why would anyone have to figure out what had to be done in these circumstances? We also know that he delayed reporting Sandusky’s sexual conduct because Mr. Paterno did not “want to interfere” with people’s weekend.

To his credit, Mr. Paterno stated on November 9, 2011, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Their callous and shocking disregard for child victims was underscored by the Grand Jury, which noted in its November 4, 2011 presentment that there was no “attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2 or to protect that child or others from similar conduct, except as related to preventing its reoccurrence on University property.”

None of these four men took any responsible action after February 2001 other than Mr. Curley informing the Second Mile that Mr. Sandusky had showered with a boy. Even though they all knew about the 1998 incident, the best they could muster to protect Sandusky’s victims was to ask Sandusky not to bring his “guests” into the Penn State facilities.

Although we found no evidence that the Penn State Board of Trustees was aware of the allegations regarding Sandusky in 1998 and 2001, that does not shield the Board from criticism. In this matter, the Board – despite its duties of care and oversight of the University and its Officers – failed to create an environment which held the University’s most senior leaders accountable to it. Mr. Spanier resisted the Board’s attempt to have more transparency. In fact, around the time that Mr. Sandusky, Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz were arrested, Mr. Spanier was unwilling to give the Board any more information about what was going on than what he was providing to the public.

After a media report on March 31, 2011, the Board was put on notice about serious allegations that Sandusky was sexually assaulting children on the Penn State
campus. The Board failed in its duty to make reasonable inquiry into these serious matters and to demand action by the President.

The President, a Senior Vice President, and General Counsel did not perform their duty to make timely, thorough and forthright reports of these 1998 and 2001 allegations to the Board. This was a failure of governance for which the Board must also bear responsibility.

We also found that:
• The Board did not have regular reporting procedures or committee structures
to ensure disclosure of major risks to the University;

• Some Trustees felt their meetings were a “rubber stamp” process for Mr.
Spanier’s actions;

• The Board did not independently ask for more information or assess the
underreporting by Spanier about the Sandusky investigation after May 2011
and thereby failed to oversee properly his executive management of the worst
crisis in Penn State’s history;

• The Board was over-confident in Spanier’s abilities to handle crises and was
unprepared to deal with: the filing of criminal charges against senior University leaders and a
prominent former football coach in November, 2011; and, the firing of Coach Paterno.

 

From 1998–2011, Penn State’s “Tone at the Top” for transparency, compliance, police reporting and child protection was completely wrong, as shown by the inaction and concealment on the part of its most senior leaders, and followed by those at the bottom of the University’s pyramid of power. This is best reflected by the janitors’ decision not to report Sandusky’s horrific 2000 sexual assault of a young boy in the Lasch Building shower. The janitors were afraid of being fired for reporting a powerful football coach."