Penn State trustees voted to settle with “one or more” victims of retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky in a special meeting Thursday, but it wasn’t unanimous and it wasn’t without vocal opposition.
There was no dollar figure attached to the resolution read in the telephone meeting, the victims were unspecified and the terms vague. The details were listed as “amounts within such dollar limits as the Subcommittee on Legal may approve in advance to one or more such persons in settlement of such claims, in each case on terms and conditions approved by the (p)resident.”
There are multiple suits underway by Sandusky victims, including John Doe 6, whose federal case had an order to compel production of his medical records last week, and John Doe D’s Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas case, in which former trustee chairwoman and general counsel Cynthia Baldwin has been sought for deposition.
Settlements have been made with other victims of Sandusky’s child sex abuse crimes, for a total of 26 individuals and $59.7 million.
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But for some trustees, including all of the alumni-elected members, it is time to call a stop to opening the university’s checkbook in the matter.
“We seem to have adopted a policy of pay and move on,” trustee Anthony Lubrano said, calling the move a “policy of expedience.”
“Unfortunately, Penn State continues to pay almost three years later, and today we look to pay again. But I say no more,” he said.
“I want to express my sympathy for Sandusky victims,” trustee Ted Brown said. “They are not Penn State victims.”
For some, it was an issue of lack of information and lack of time for debate. Bill Oldsey, Robert Jubelirer and Lubrano all wanted to know more about the situation than the 30 minutes allotted in the special teleconference executive session before the live-streamed voice vote.
For others, it was a fiduciary concern.
“We have easily spent a year’s worth of state appropriations on the Sandusky scandal,” trustee Barbara Doran said. “It’s time to draw a line in the sand.”
There were also some stands on principle and pride.
“I have great compassion for the victims of Jerry Sandusky, however ... I cannot support a victim settlement when we have failed our duty to protect and defend the university against false accusation,” said trustee Alice Pope, a child psychologist and university professor. “Every day that we silently stand in support of the Freeh report is a day that we allow the world to believe that we agree with the conclusions.”
The university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal by former FBI director Louis Freeh was cited more than once during the trustees’ statements.
“It all came down to the unfortunate decision to hire Freeh, and that has been the linchpin of how this ties Penn State into the situation,” Jubelirer said.
The vote came down to 18 in favor of settlement and six opposed. Trustee Al Lord voluntarily recused himself from the vote at the suggestion of trustee and attorney Rick Dandrea due to his relationship with former university president Graham Spanier. However, in a statement he submitted through Lubrano, he opposed the decision.
“Victims may be due recompense from Sandusky, not Penn State,” he wrote.