Penn State releases confidential copy of Freeh contract; cost for investigation $8 million

mdawson@centredaily.comMarch 12, 2013 

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    Some of Penn State costs for Sandusky scandal:

    Freeh report: $8.1 million

    Work of NCAA-appointed athletics integrity monitor George Mitchell: $1 million

    Legal defense of former university officials: $4.4 million

— Penn State on Monday released the confidential paperwork authorizing Louis Freeh’s law firm to undertake the investigation that ended up accusing former leaders of concealing abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky.

The investigation that yielded the Freeh report has cost Penn State slightly more than $8.1 million, according to figures the university updated Monday. The total amount Penn State has paid in responding to the Sandusky scandal stands at more than $41 million, when including the first of five $12 million payments toward the NCAA fine and millions in legal bills, public relations firms and other consultants.

For months, Penn State alumni have clamored for the university to release the contract with Freeh’s firm, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan. University spokesman David La Torre said the document, which the university called an “engagement letter,” was released Monday because of the numerous requests officials have received.

The letter, dated Dec. 2, 2011, outlines the scope of Freeh’s investigation, rates and other provisions. The agreement was between Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan and Penn State’s special investigative task force headed by trustee Ken Frazier.

At the top of each of page is a header reading “privileged and confidential.”

Under the section about the scope of the work, the document reads: Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan “has been engaged to serve as an independent, external legal counsel to the task force to perform an independent, full and complete investigation of the recently publicized allegations of sexual abuse at the facilities and the alleged failure of The Pennsylvania State University personnel to report such sexual abuse to appropriate police and government authorities.”

The investigation was to be independent of and not interfere with any parallel investigation, the paperwork shows. The work between Freeh and the task force was to be subject to attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product privileges unless otherwise waived.

The hourly rates that Penn State was to pay Freeh and his investigators were blacked out.

According to the document, Freeh’s findings were to focus on failures in the reporting process, the cause of those failures, who had knowledge of the abuse and how those allegations were handled by Penn State leaders and employees.

Freeh said the investigators would maintain a file consisting of correspondence, deposition transcripts, exhibits, physical evidence and reports.

Investigators would report any “discovered evidence of criminality” to authorities and notify the leaders on Penn State’s task force. If Freeh’s investigation identified any victims of sexual crimes, the investigators would report that information to law enforcement, too.

Freeh’s report did not turn up any abuse victims — the 10 victims whose abuse was detailed in two grand jury presentments were found by state authorities investigating Sandusky.

But Freeh’s investigation revealed email conversations from 1998 and 2001 among university leaders Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz that allegedly suggest they discussed responding to concerns about Sandusky. The emails were used by Freeh to make his conclusions that the men, and former head football coach Joe Paterno, hid the abuse allegations in fear of bad publicity.

The emails were turned over to state prosecutors who used the evidence in November to indict Curley, Schultz and Spanier on obstruction and other charges.

The lawyers for the university leaders say the emails were taken out of context and denounced Freeh’s work as incomplete. The lawyers have vowed to fight the charges at trial.

Most recently, a term of experts hired by the Paterno family blasted the Freeh report as “fundamentally flawed” because investigators did not interview important witnesses such as Curley, Schultz, Paterno and the witness to the 2001 shower incident, Mike McQueary.

Keith Masser, the chairman of the board of trustees, told the Centre Daily Times on Friday that the full board will discuss the Freeh report and the Paterno rebuttal during its meeting this week in Hershey. The trustees meet Thursday and Friday.

Freshman trustee Anthony Lubrano, long a critic of the board of trustees’ actions in responding to the Sandusky crisis, cited terms of the contract last month when he said he wanted to seek a refund of the money paid out to Freeh. Lubrano said Freeh “did not deliver on his promise” for a complete investigation.

On Friday, before the contract was released, trustee Paul Silvis said there is no refund provision in the contract.

The group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship asked for a copy of the contract in April last year, said the group’s spokeswoman, Maribeth Schmidt. In late July, the group made a formal request.

She said the contract “confirms our worst fears.”

“Contrary to what the public, the media, and even the NCAA were led to believe, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan was not hired by Penn State University, nor was that firm acting as counsel to Penn State,” she said. “Instead, that firm was hired by the board of trustees and, as such, FSS’ ethical obligation was to the board of trustees and not the (u)niversity.”

La Torre said the board and the university are not separate and disputed Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship’s characterization.

“The (b)oard of (t)rustees, as the ultimate governing body of the (u)niversity, engaged Judge Freeh to do an investigation for the benefit of the (u)niversity,” La Torre said. “Indeed, the recommendations made by Judge Freeh are being considered and implemented in order to improve the (u)niversity, including how the (b)oard of (t)rustees functions. There is no inherent conflict of interest between the governing body of an organization and the organization itself.”

Ryan Bagwell, who is seeking an alumnus seat on the board of trustees in this year’s election, has been on a monthslong quest to get a copy of the contract.

He filed a Right-to-Know Law request to the state Department of Education and requested the contract through department Secretary Ron Tomalis. He was denied, then won an appeal, though the department responded to Bagwell saying Tomalis does not have the contract.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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