Law firm letter to Penn State trustees angers some alumni

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Penn State University on Monday disclosed a previously confidential letter that may have set in motion landmark NCAA sanctions against the university in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The letter's release -- with per-hour billing rates blacked out -- included language typical of such agreements. It said Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP would "perform an independent, full and complete investigation of the recently publicized allegations of sexual abuse ... and alleged failure of (Penn State) personnel to report such sexual abuse."

The letter's release was followed almost immediately by criticism from an alumni group long unhappy with the Freeh findings, the school's handling of the Sandusky matter and Penn State trustees' firing of head football coach Joe Paterno.

Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, or PS4RS, claims the work performed was incomplete and that the Nov. 18, 2011, letter makes clear that lawyers for Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan were beholden to trustees and not the university.

Penn State spokesman David La Torre said Monday night that per-hour billing rates were withheld as proprietary information but that the school did disclose that Penn State has paid the Freeh firm $8,147,597 as of Dec. 31.

Mr. La Torre said PS4RS is incorrect to say that the board and university are separate entities.

"There is no inherent conflict of interest between the governing body of an organization and the organization itself," he said.

In all, Penn State has spent $41.1 million for legal, crisis communication and other costs associated with the arrest and conviction of Sandusky, 69, a former Penn State assistant football coach serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for attacks on 10 boys over a decade, some on campus.

With civil settlement offers being weighed by some of Sandusky's victims, there have been calls for Penn State to disclose those payments as well once they are made. The university will release a total cost of the settlements but not individual amounts out of privacy concerns, Mr. La Torre said.

education - state - psusports

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.


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