A company headed by the board chairman of The Second Mile, the nonprofit at the center of the Penn State University sex abuse scandal, served as construction manager on the organization's $11.5 million learning center project.
Robert Poole is president and CEO of Poole Anderson Construction, based in State College. He also has served as The Second Mile's board chairman for 17 years.
Mr. Poole's role in the selection of his company as manager for the publicly funded project was not clear Wednesday. Neither he nor vice chairman David Woodle, who is directing the day-to-day operations of The Second Mile, returned repeated calls seeking comment.
According to the organization's bylaws, the board can authorize contracts and the chairman is empowered to sign them, along with the "secretary or any other proper officer."
The learning center was to be funded in part with a $3 million state grant approved by Gov. Tom Corbett in July. But the grant is now on hold and the project in jeopardy, part of the fallout from the child molestation case against Jerry Sandusky, the charity's founder and a former Penn State assistant football coach.
Before leaving The Second Mile under a cloud of suspicion in 2010, Mr. Sandusky had long championed the development of what he called the "Center for Excellence," which would have classrooms, athletic facilities, an auditorium and dormitories.
In The Second Mile's annual report for 2008, Mr. Sandusky wrote that "we have moved closer to realizing this dream." The first phase was to be an outdoor recreational complex and an education and recreation building.
It was to be built on a 60-acre site in Patton Township, about 41 acres of which was purchased by The Second Mile from Penn State for $168,500 in 2002. A design was completed by State College architect M. John Lew, and a rendering was posted on his company's website.
As recently as Oct. 25, the "Second Mile Center for Excellence" also was depicted on Poole Anderson's website in the "current work" section.
The posting, since removed from the site, said the project "will have six phases and extend over 25-30 years. This first phase will include a 48,000-square-foot learning center and surrounding athletic fields."
In addition to the $3 million state grant, financing included $4.5 million in private donations and the estimated value of the 60-acre site - about $555,000 - which went toward the local match of the state grant. Another $3.5 million needed for the athletic fields and site work was outside of the scope of the application for state funding, said Susan Hooper, spokeswoman for the governor's budget office.
Mr. Lew said in a telephone interview that he won a competition to land the architectural contract and answered to Poole Anderson during the design work. He said he was not certain how Poole Anderson was chosen as construction manager.
The project has been upended by the 40-count grand jury presentment that accused Mr. Sandusky of sexually abusing eight boys from 1996 to 2005.
The Second Mile's longtime president and CEO, Jack Raykovitz, resigned on Monday in the wake of disclosures that he knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Sandusky at least back to 2002.
The agency did not order Mr. Sandusky to stay away from the children in its programs until six years later, when he told The Second Mile that he was under investigation for alleged abuse of a 15-year-old Clinton County boy.
The $3 million grant, under the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, was budgeted by the Legislature last year and the funding was released by departing Gov. Ed Rendell. But no contract was signed before Mr. Corbett took office in January, and he ordered a review of it and other pending grants.
"The Office of the Budget has completed its review of The Second Mile Learning Center project and I am pleased to inform you that Governor Corbett has approved the Commonwealth's commitment of $3,000,000 in RACP funding for this project," budget secretary Charles B. Zogby wrote in a July 20 letter to Mr. Raykovitz.
On Tuesday, a governor's spokesman said the grant was suspended for further review.
Mr. Corbett as attorney general supervised the investigation that began in 2008 when the Clinton County teen came forward with complaints that Mr. Sandusky had sexually abused him.
In remarks in Philadelphia Wednesday, Mr. Corbett said he approved the grant this summer in part because he feared withholding it might compromise the investigation.
On Monday, Centre County commissioners notified The Second Mile that they were withdrawing from the project. The county had planned to serve as administrator of the state grant.
"The County no longer supports or is willing to participate in this project," solicitor Louis T. Glantz said in a letter to the organization.
The Centre Daily Times, in a Wednesday report on the 2002 land deal between Penn State and The Second Mile, said the $168,500 price was less than what deed records showed the university paid for the land ($183,970) in 1999. It also was only about half of what the parcel sold for in 1990.
The newspaper said the land sale was another example of the close relationship between Penn State and Mr. Sandusky's charity.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Twitter: @pgtraffic.