Another internal battle is brewing on Pennsylvania State University’s board of trustees, and this time it could lead to legal action.
Seven alumni-elected trustees on the 32-member board have reiterated their demand to have access to materials used in preparation for the blistering investigative report by former FBI director Louis Freeh that said former university leaders conspired to cover up child sex-abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
This time, the alumni trustees gave the university 48 hours to respond to their demand or, they said, they would “commence with action,” according to university officials. The 48-hour period expired last week.
At issue is the question of confidentiality granted to faculty, staff, and others before they were interviewed for the Freeh report in the Sandusky investigation. The university contends that turning over the report materials will violate those agreements unless the alumni trustees themselves sign confidentiality agreements – which they have refused to do.
Reached Sunday night, alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano declined to comment on any action the alumni trustees may be contemplating, but it’s clear from university communications that the group of alumni trustees has retained a lawyer. Lubrano, a Glenmoore businessman, promised more information in coming days.
University president Eric Barron and board chairman Keith Masser issued a joint statement Sunday night, condemning and rejecting the alumni trustees’ demand.
“In the last three years, Penn State University has worked incredibly hard to encourage members of our community to report wrongdoing, without fear of retaliation or criticism,” they said. “This demand and the continuing efforts of these trustees will undo that progress.”
The university is prepared to make millions of “non-privileged” documents available to the alumni trustees if they sign the confidentiality agreements, university lawyer Joseph F. O’Dea Jr. wrote in a letter to lawyer Daniel T. Brier, who is representing alumni trustees.
But the university intends to protect faculty and other employees who gave information, believing that it would remain confidential, O’Dea wrote.
“The very fact that you have publicly demanded to review this information is harmful to the university,” O’Dea wrote.
Other alumni trustees who made the demand are: Ted Brown, Barbara Doran, Robert Jubelirer, Ryan McCombie, Bill Oldsey, and Alice Pope, the university said.
The same trustees this month voted against a payout to one or more Sandusky victims, saying Sandusky acted alone and the university was being unfairly targeted and blamed.
Masser and Barron noted the confidentiality of the Freeh report interviews.
“As we have stated in receiving past requests, the university intends to honor the promises of confidentiality made to the faculty, staff and others who were interviewed as part of the Freeh investigation,” they said in the statement. “Additionally, we have seen public statements on social media vilifying individuals who have voiced different opinions on what happened, with some even calling for businesses to be boycotted. No one should be exposed to such abuse.”
Freeh released his report in July 2012, less than a year after Sandusky was indicted for abusing boys on and off Penn State’s campus. The report accused former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier, late head football coach Joe Paterno, and two other Penn State administrators of failing to act on allegations of Sandusky’s misconduct. The alumni trustees repeatedly have blasted the Freeh report and its conclusions and have fought to have the board repudiate it
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