The official position of Penn State on the Freeh report is wait and see.
After three months of discussion, Penn State trustees voted down a resolution that would have further investigated the report and the situation surrounding the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal instead, after four days, passing a resolution to monitor the situation.
The board of trustees gathered at the Nittany Lion Inn for a behind-closed-doors meeting before facing the public for the official vote.
The meeting was called to discuss the motion made by trustee Al Lord in July to complete the investigation of the Sandusky scandal that Lord says was only started, not finished, by the Freeh report.
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It was clear from the beginning that there would not be a unanimous vote.
“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts, we have an inability to find consensus and find full board support,” Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Casey said.
“We are just very divided on the issues,” trustee Anthony Lubrano said.
Lord’s motion called for the formation of a four-person committee, to include Lord and Lubrano and two others appointed by Chairman Keith Masser, to “examine the Freeh report, meeting with (Louis) Freeh and his investigative team, review the full set of undisclosed communications and report its findings to the full board.”
The board would then issue its own report on its findings.
Former FBI chief Freeh’s results were the reasoning behind the NCAA’s unprecedented sanctions against the university, stripping 112 wins, handcuffing the Nittany Lions with scholarship restrictions and banning the team from postseason play for four years.
Two years of good reports from independent monitor and former Sen. George Mitchell have slowly rolled most of those back. In September, the team was given the green light for a bowl game if it qualifies this year.
The motion’s supporters, the nine alumni-elected trustees, were vocal.
“Penn State is standing side by side with the NCAA,” Lord said. “History will show we are on the wrong side of this.”
“We have sat still and let ourselves be belittled, be labeled,” said trustee and former state senator and lieutenant governor Bob Jubelirer. “There is nothing, nothing we should have to disagree on. There is no downside, none at all, if we review the Freeh report.”
He cited Commonwealth Court decisions, claiming the courts would soon declare that the consent decree that made the sanctions possible is unenforceable.
“We have accepted a scarlet letter,” said trustee Ryan McCombie. “I, for one, refuse to wear it.”
Few among the opposition spoke, but those who did were just as confident of their position.
“I stand behind every decision made on this board,” said trustee Keith Eckel, who questioned the proposal including Lord and Lubrano on the committee.
“I believe patience is the order of the day,” said trustee Richard Dandrea, calling any review of the Freeh report before the conclusion of the ongoing legal actions — including the pending perjury and conspiracy trials of former president Graham Spanier and former executives Tim Curley and Gary Schultz — “premature.”
And that’s when the audience, which was already engaged with occasional cheers or boos, got involved.
One woman stood up and shouted, “That was a good case for not hiring Freeh!” She was escorted out, along with Penn State professor Barry Fenchak, who was removed from the last trustees meeting for attempting to voice his opinions. Another woman was ousted later.
Trustee William Oldsey agreed with them, asking why the board had spent almost $9 million on the Freeh investigation if it couldn’t be done fully.
Lord’s proposal was voted down 17-9.
Casey then put forward her own resolution, calling for the trustees to “actively monitor the discovery and factual investigations that are part of the related proceedings,” and when those are complete, “determine whether any action is appropriate and in the best interests of Penn State.”
That resolution was circulated to trustees Friday. Jubelirer moved to table the new proposal, allowing the board to fully review it before voting, but that motion was struck down.
Trustee Edward Brown questioned the rush to pass the resolution after three months of discussion on the Lord proposal.
“It’s because you’re in the minority,” Lord said.
Casey defended the reason behind her motion, saying voting for it would be the first time the trustees, as a group, had taken any position on the investigation.
The resolution passed 17-8, with trustee Adam Taliaferro abstaining.
Eckel said the resolution was “very critical,” claiming it corrected misconceptions that the board and the university aren’t “constantly involved” in monitoring the legal proceedings.
Lubrano said his next step will be to push “a little more firmly” for copies of documents from the Freeh investigation that he has been requesting for months.
Members of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship released a statement in support of Lord’s proposal.
“We are disheartened by the artificial time constraints placed on the meeting for a topic of such significant importance to our university,” it said. “While the resolution was not approved, the victory for alumni and Penn State today was a roll call vote that illuminated individual positions on the Freeh report. Those individuals supporting the substantially flawed Freeh report will no doubt be held to their positions as the report undergoes legal examination in a court of law, and will be held accountable for their breach of fiduciary responsibility as a result of their support of such a flawed investigation and resulting conclusions.”