Agency for at-risk youths had inklings of trouble in 1998
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The nonprofit agency at the center of the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal had warning signs of questionable conduct by its founder, longtime football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, a full decade before it acted to ban him from contact with children it served.
The Second Mile, a program for at-risk youth, said in a statement that it immediately acted in 2008 to ban Mr. Sandusky from programs involving children when he told them he was under investigation for sexual contact with a juvenile but had denied any wrongdoing.
However, the organization knew as early as 1998 that Mr. Sandusky was under investigation for similar sexual misconduct in a Penn State shower involving a different boy from the program, according to a presentment by a statewide investigating grand jury.
Mr. Sandusky started the program in 1977 to help troubled boys, but it provided him with access to hundreds of vulnerable youths, at least eight of whom he is accused of sexually assaulting over a 15-year period, the presentment said.
State College attorney Wendell V. Courtney was apprised of the investigation in 1998 because he was then-counsel for Penn State and for The Second Mile, a position he still holds. He was unavailable for comment Monday.
That investigation, by University Police, was closed when the Centre County district attorney's office decided not to file charges.
The Second Mile learned of another investigation involving Mr. Sandusky in 2002. In its statement, the agency said its chief executive officer, Jack Raykovitz, testified at the investigating grand jury that he had been told by Penn State athletic director Tim Curley that an internal investigation had found no corroboration for an allegation of inappropriate contact by Mr. Sandusky with a youth in a university locker room.
Despite those two allegations, it wasn't until November 2008 that the program took steps to keep Mr. Sandusky away from children. It was then, according to the organization's statement, that "Mr. Sandusky informed The Second Mile that he had learned he was being investigated as a result of allegations made against him by an adolescent male in Clinton County, Pa. Although he maintained there was no truth to the claims, we are an organization committed first and foremost to the safety and well-being of the children we serve.
"Consistent with that commitment and with The Second Mile policy, we immediately made the decision to separate him from all of our program activities involving children. Thus, from 2008 to present, Mr. Sandusky has had no involvement with Second Mile programs involving children."
Mr. Sandusky, who retired from coaching in 1999, was still affiliated with The Second Mile until he retired from there in September 2010.
At the organization's headquarters on South Atherton Street in State College, there was this sign of siege: Workers taped Manila pouches to the doorways holding copies of the organization's prepared statement.
Also taped on the door was this message: "We do not feel an interview would be appropriate, since this matter involves a criminal investigation, and we do not want to do anything that might interfere with law enforcement officials or the legal process.
"As in the past, The Second Mile will continue to do everything in our power to be cooperative with authorities and will maintain our focus on doing what is best for the children and the mission of The Second Mile."
Mr. Raykovitz was not available and did not return a message.
The presentment said all eight victims whom Mr. Sandusky is accused of sexually assaulting were involved with The Second Mile, but the organization noted in its statement that "to our knowledge, all the alleged incidents occurred outside of our programs and events."
Carol Smith, director of Centre County Children and Youth Services, declined to be interviewed, citing the ongoing legal proceedings. But she said her agency's dealings with The Second Mile were minimal -- the nonprofit has provided plaques and restaurant gift certificates to CYS foster parents who reached certain milestones of service.
The Second Mile was first contacted by the state attorney general's office in early 2011, the organization said in its statement, and "since then, we have done everything in our power to cooperate with law-enforcement officials and will continue to do so.
"Our highest priority always has been and will continue to be the safety and well-being of the children participating in our programs. ... We have many policies and procedures designed to protect our participants, including employee and volunteer background checks, training and supervision of our activities."
"The Second Mile has helped thousands of Pennsylvania's children to lead better lives, and we remain committed to that mission. Our success is a result of the trust placed in us by the families and professionals with whom we partner, and we will take any steps needed to maintain their confidence in us."
While coaching at Penn State in 1977, Mr. Sandusky started The Second Mile in State College as a group foster home for troubled boys. In its first year, it served 45 youths. Today, the organization said, it serves 100,000 children annually across the state with nine prevention, early-intervention and community-based programs and services.
Typically, children and families are referred to The Second Mile by school counselors and other youth service professionals.
In its annual IRS filings, The Second Mile says its mission is to "provide opportunities for young people" and "support parents and professionals addressing the needs of youth." In the 2010 tax year, the 501(c)(3) reported $9.45 million in total assets, according to tax returns filed this January.
The organization relies solely on private contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and special events. Last tax year, it listed revenue of $2.1 million. Among its fundraising activities are auctions, golf tournaments, sports banquets and large prize drawings.
Its board of directors, as of the 2011 filing, included state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre; Penn State alumnus and board chairman Bob Poole, president and CEO of S&A Homes and Poole Anderson Construction; Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing at Sheetz Inc; and nearly three dozen more.
The charity, in 2010, reported having seven full-time employees. Two of them took home in excess of $100,000 from the organization: Mr. Raykovitz, who is the CEO and president, and his wife, executive vice president Katherine Genovese.
The last time Mr. Sandusky appears to have derived any income from the foundation was in 2007, when he was paid $57,000 for "consulting" services provided to The Second Mile.
In 2010, the foundation's biggest event, with expenses of more than $536,000, was its annual "summer challenge," a weeklong early-intervention summer camp program serving more than 700 children ages 8 to 17.
To volunteer or work with that program -- as was the case with many of the other Second Mile youth programs -- applicants had to pass a criminal background check and sign a "non-abuse statement," pledging that the applicant has "never been held in suspicion of any form of child abuse" and never been arrested or convicted of an offense "related to the abuse of children or of violent or assaultive behavior."
Among those on the organization's "Honorary Board of Directors" are former Penn State football stars Franco Harris, Jack Ham and John Cappelletti; golfing great Arnold Palmer; actor Mark Wahlberg; Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid; and retired Penn State president Bryce Jordan.
First Published November 8, 2011 12:00 am