Controversial Freeh Report debated at Penn State trustees meeting
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HERSHEY, Pa. -- The Penn State board of trustees meeting, a normally staid and orchestrated event, became animated this afternoon during an open discussion on the controversial Freeh Report.
Trustee Kenneth Frazier defended the Freeh findings against criticisms by alumni and others that the report was fundamentally flawed. Critics have said that the report unfairly tarred former football coach Joe Paterno, other university leaders and Penn State because it provided selective information and investigators did not interview some key individuals.
Mr. Frazier said the firm directed by FBI Director Louis Freeh was charged with conducting an independent investigation of the Sandusky matter and the university's response to it.
The Freeh Report found that Paterno and other campus leaders sought to cover up crimes by former asistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The Freeh report, released in July, was followed days later by landmark NCAA sanctions against the university, among them a postseason football bowl ban and a $60 million fine.
Mr. Frazier said it was neither the intent nor the authority of the investigation to look into outside organizations, such as Children and Youth Services under the state Department of Public Welfare.
He conceded the firm's inability to interview certain key potential witnesses, but insisted the report was "independent and complete" given evidence and individuals available.
"The facts are the facts," Mr. Frazier said. He said documents unearthed including e-mails between 1998 and 2001 contributed to a body of knowledge indicating that at varying times and degrees "people who were in a position to protect kids did not do so."
"We cannot put our heads in the sand and pretend that children were not hurt or that the documents do not exist," Mr. Frazier said.
He said it would be harmful to rewrite history.
In response, trustee Anthony Lubrano said that "all of us want to understand the truth."
He said he wants Penn State to move forward but said he cannot, with a flawed finding that the university has not adequately weighed.
"I understand, Ken, your point that we don't want to rewrite history. But I'm not sure that the history is correct," Mr. Lubrano said.
He said the Freeh files should be released and that the university should take up Mr. Freeh on an offer made last summer to come to campus to address students employees and others at an appropriate time.
Mr. Frazier said the intent of the process was not to judge Mr. Paterno, a statement that drew groans from some people in the meeting room.
Earlier in the day, former attorney general Dick Thornburgh said he was disappointed that "some members" of the Penn State board of trustees dismissed his analysis of the Freeh Report without giving it due consideration.
Mr. Thornburgh was the co-author of a 200-plus page analysis that asserted that the findings of the Freeh Report were flawed.
Mr. Frazier, during a committee meeting on Thursday, said Mr. Thornburgh's analysis, which was produced on behalf of the Paterno family "strains to interpret" emails and other documents from administrators who were handling the matter.
Today, Mr. Frazier, the CEO of Merck, apologized for comments he made on Thursday to Bill Cluck, a Harrisburg lawyer who is a candidate for a position on the board and who raised questions about the Freeh Report findings.
"You're a lawyer so stop pretending that you think we are," Mr. Frazier said in comments that were recorded on YouTube. "We can take employment actions; we can take corrective actions without any need to resort to the so-called due process, reasonable-doubt standard. I don't care if they are acquitted and you know the difference.
"If you care about that then you are one of the few people in this country that looks like you who actually believed the O.J. Simpson not guilty verdict was correct, and you know you didn't.
"The fact of the matter is the documents say what they say and no amount of hand-wringing will ever change what those documents say."
During today's board meeting, Mr. Frazier issued an aplogy for his remarks.
"I employed an analogy that was unhelpful and confusing. Absolutely no offense was intended. I apologize," he said.
Mr. Thornburgh, in his statement today, said that he wanted all the files of the Freeh Report released to the public.
"Overheated rhetoric and personal attacks do nothing to advance the objective we all share of finding the truth in the Sandusky scandal.
"That some members of the Board of Trustees want to reject our report out of hand, without the benefit of a review or discussion is unfortunate. We believe the better course would be for the Board to have a public review of both reports. I personally would welcome a chance to discuss these issues with the Board."
Sandusky, 69, a former assistant football coach, is now in prison for sexual assaults on 10 boys over a decade, including some on campus.
Fallout from his November 2011 arrest led to the ouster of top campus leaders including former president Gaham Spanier and Paterno, who died last year of cancer at age 85.
First Published March 15, 2013 3:13 pm