HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania attorney general said Thursday she authorized the governor's general counsel to pursue a lawsuit against the NCAA because pending criminal cases against Penn State University administrators could present a conflict of interest.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday his administration would ask a federal judge to throw out the NCAA sanctions against Penn State resulting from the Jerry Sandusky case. The governor had sought authority from outgoing Attorney General Linda Kelly to pursue the lawsuit.
Ms. Kelly said Thursday the pending criminal cases against three Penn State administrators were "an important factor" in choosing to delegate authority to the administration.
"We recognized that an actual conflict of interest could, and likely would, arise if this office were involved in both cases," Ms. Kelly said in a statement. "The size and scope of that criminal case, which includes extensive grand jury testimony and other confidential information related to the university, made it untenable for the Office of Attorney General to pursue a civil lawsuit involving the NCAA's sanctions of Penn State."
Former athletic director Tim Curley, retired vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz, and former university president Graham Spanier are charged with conspiracy, endangering the welfare of children and obstruction of justice for allegedly not reporting suspected child abuse by Sandusky.
Mr. Corbett referred to the pending cases when asked during a news conference Wednesday why his office and not the attorney general was pursuing the lawsuit.
"They have a great deal of work on their shoulders, including the actual prosecution of the criminal case that's ongoing," he said.
Mr. Corbett was attorney general before he was elected governor and nominated Ms. Kelly to serve the remainder of his term as attorney general. Incoming attorney general Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who takes office later this month, criticized Mr. Corbett's handling of the investigation of the Sandusky case during her campaign.
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141. Staff writer Laura Olson contributed.