SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. – On a summer afternoon two years ago, Penn State’s board of trustees reacted to the release of the Freeh Report by promising to enact oversight changes at the university, then it didn’t have a public,in-depth discussion of the report again. Now, the board might have to.
At the end of Friday’s trustees meeting at the Penn State campus here, new trustee Al Lord proposed a resolution to delve into the Freeh Report with an open-ended goal of identifying possible flaws and missing information and fully investigating that information.
“I want the board to agree that we’re not done,” Mr. Lord said. “That’s all. Very simple.”
Moving such a resolution to an action authorized by the board will require significant legwork. The resolution would have to be introduced and recommended by a committee and then put in front of the entire board for vote. That likely would not be possible until at least the board‘s next meeting, in September.
Friday’s meeting ended with board chairman Keith Masser suggesting that the next possible discussion of the resolution likely would need to take place during an executive session. Mr. Lord questioned after the meeting why a discussion would need to be in executive session.
“Getting legal advice here is the most complicated thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Mr. Lord said. “You would think we work for the CIA. What’s the worst that can come out, right?”
Penn State commissioned former FBI director Louis Freeh to investigate the university’s role in the Sandusky sex abuse scandal in late 2011. His report was released on July 12, 2012. It concluded that former Penn State administrators Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, as well as former football coach Joe Paterno, concealed Sandusky’s crime. It was also critical of the trustees and Penn State’s athletic department.
Alumni and principals involved with the Sandusky scandal have attacked the report since its release. Mr. Spanier, who resigned as university president over the scandal, commissioned a critique of the report and has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Freeh. The Paterno family also commissioned a critique of the report and released it in February 2013.
Mr. Lord said his greatest concern over the report was that Mr. Freeh failed to interview the main witnesses. Mr. Freeh had no subpoena power and of the principals involved with Sandusky’s crimes on the Penn State campus, he interviewed only Mr. Spanier. Similar complaints about the Freeh Report have been expressed by other alumni trustees in the last two years.
“In the end, we’re looking for a repudiation of the conclusions reached by Louis Freeh,” trustee Anthony Lubrano said.
Though just 10 trustees who were on the board in November 2011 remain as voting members of the board, the majority of the 30-person board still tends to act opposite of Mr. Lord, Mr. Lubrano and the seven other alumni trustees when it comes to sensitive issues as the Freeh Report and Joe Paterno’s firing.
A vote taken Friday about emeritus status for former trustees Samuel Hayes and Paul Suhey illustrated the contrast between these groups and the limitations of the alumni trustees. After Mr. Lubrano discussed not wanting to grant emeritus status because of the likelihood of pending reforms, he asked that the trustees take a roll-call vote. He and the other alumni trustees abstained from the vote. But all the other trustees voted in favor of granting the two emeritus status, and the measure passed.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05