By Mark Viera, Jo Becker and Pete Thamel (New York Times)
November 18, 2011
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The local charity founded by Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator who earlier this month was charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing young boys, is preparing to fold as it tries to reconstruct what it knew, and did, about any suspicions or allegations against Sandusky over the years.
David Woodle, the interim chief executive of the charity, known as the Second Mile, said in an interview Friday that the foundation was seeking to transfer its programs to other nonprofit organizations. The Second Mile's leaders are looking at organizations that could, and would, carry forward the foundation's work with disadvantaged youths. He would not say which organizations would be candidates.
In a subsequent telephone interview, after an earlier version of this article was posted on The Times's Web site, Woodle said he was talking to donors and soliciting feedback about whether it was possible to save the organization in some form, but failing that, was moving to shutter it in a way that ensures some continuity for the programs.
"We're working hard to figure out how the programs can survive this event," Woodle said. "We aren't protective of this organization that it survives at all costs."
The Pennsylvania attorney general has said that Sandusky used the Second Mile to prey on young boys, and that Sandusky met each of the eight boys he has formally been accused of raping or otherwise assaulting through the foundation. Thousands of children passed through the foundation, which was formed by Sandusky in 1977 and offered mentoring, sleep-away summer camps and other services.
On Sunday, the charity's board of directors authorized the hiring of Lynne M. Abraham and the law firm Archer & Greiner to conduct an independent investigation into the Second Mile. The investigation will seek to discover the extent of contact Sandusky had with children who went through the program, when the program learned about various allegations against Sandusky, and how it handled them.
According to testimony given before a grand jury in Harrisburg, Pa., Penn State's athletic director, Tim Curley, informed the charity's chief executive in 2002 that Sandusky had been directed not to bring youngsters onto the Penn State campus after a graduate assistant reported that Sandusky had engaged in inappropriate conduct with a boy in a shower. (The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, testified that he was far more specific and told administrators that he saw Sandusky raping the boy.)
Woodle declined to answer questions about what, if anything, was done after that. Nor would he say if the charity took steps to limit or monitor Sandusky's interactions with the program's youths after Sandusky himself informed the Second Mile in 2008 that he was under investigation for a separate incident involving inappropriate behavior. Woodle said that those were matters that fall under the scope of Abraham's investigation. He said the board would publicly address those issues and others, but not before she finishes her inquiry, which he said he expected to take until the end of the year.
"The board agrees that these are good questions," said Woodle, the board's vice chairman.
Abraham served as the district attorney for Philadelphia from 1991 until last year. A tough-minded prosecutor who frequently sought the death penalty, she earned the nicknames Deadliest D.A. and Queen of Death.
Abraham, now a partner at Archer & Greiner, led a five-year investigation into sexual abuse by priests in Philadelphia.
Sandusky has maintained his innocence in the case, but since a televised interview on Monday night he has remained out of the public eye. His lawyer said in a television interview that Sandusky was fearful that he would not be able to lead a normal life, noting that Sandusky's home in State College was vandalized Thursday night for the second time in the past week.
Woodle said he heard from numerous people who had called to express hope that the Second Mile's programs would continue, but he added that a number of donors said they could no longer support the foundation, which had roughly $9 million in assets in the year ending Aug. 31, 2010. The Second Mile reached thousands of children through educational outreach and mentoring programs.
Several board members have expressed dismay that the allegations against Sandusky were minimized whenever they were brought up, according to people on the board. They are also concerned that after they were told that Sandusky would not be at the Second Mile's events, he nonetheless appeared at the annual golf fund-raiser in June.
While declining to go into detail about complaints the charity has received, Woodle said it was natural for people to ask, "How come I didn't know about this earlier?" noting, "That's a sentiment that exists across the country right now."
Woodle took over as the head of the foundation this week after Jack Raykovitz resigned after 28 years as chief executive. The closing of the charity would be the latest casualty in a scandal that has led to the departures of Joe Paterno, the longtime football coach at Penn State, and the university's president, Graham B. Spanier.