Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord federal court filing claims Penn State consent decree invalid

mcarroll@centredaily.comJune 26, 2014 

State Treasurer Rob McCord, a defendant in a federal lawsuit brought by the NCAA over how $60 million in fine money imposed against Penn State can be spent, filed court documents this week seeking to have the consent decree — the document between the NCAA and Penn State that enacted the fine and other penalties against the university — invalidated.

And Gov. Tom Corbett, also a defendant in the suit, having lost his bid to have the case tossed or delayed, is asking a judge to remove him from the lawsuit.

Both legal documents were filed this week before U.S. Middle District Court Judge Yvette Kane. They are the latest responses to the NCAA’s challenge of the Endowment Act — a Pennsylvania law to keep the fine money from being spent outside the state — on the grounds that it violates the constitution.

Kane ruled earlier this month against motions filed by Corbett, McCord and other state officials named in the suit, asking for the case to be thrown out or put on hold because the constitutionality of the Endowment Act is already being debated by a state court.

Corbett is now arguing that his office doesn’t have a say in enforcing the Endowment Act, and that as governor he is immune from being included in the suit, according to the court documents.

McCord’s filing gives a better look at how state officials could defend against the lawsuit.

He argues in the documents that the NCAA didn’t have the authority to impose sanctions based on the criminal conduct of a non-university employee; that the NCAA violated its own bylaws and constitution by failing to give Penn State adequate due process and by not conducting its own review; and that the university entered into the consent decree under duress.

The sanctions, including the monetary fine and loss of scholarships and bowl eligibility, were levied against Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison for molesting 10 young boys, and three former Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they covered up abuse allegations.

McCord also argued that the consent decree doesn’t give the NCAA a contractual right to determine how the fine money should be spent and, as a result, the organization doesn’t have protected property that’s being affected by the Endowment Act.

Kane had previously ordered a telephone conference for Aug. 14 so the sides can set a timeline for how the case will move forward.

The Commonwealth Court, meanwhile, has set a January trial date in a lawsuit state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, filed to force the NCAA to abide by the Endowment Act. McCord is also a plaintiff in that lawsuit.

Previously, the state court ruled that the act was constitutional in its review of the Corman suit, but it stopped short of forcing the NCAA to comply, meaning that the state lawsuit will continue to trial.

Corman proposed the Endowment Act and Corbett signed it, which prompted the NCAA to sue the governor, the state treasurer, the state auditor and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in federal court.

Under the Endowment Act, if universities and colleges in Pennsylvania are fined more than $10 million, the money would be paid into the state treasury.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @MCarrollNews.

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