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Trustees' Demands for Freeh Documents Could Be Resolved by October

by on July 21, 2015 12:11 PM

After months of debate, the end may be in sight for a legal dispute over access to Freeh Report documents.

Seven alumni-elected members of the Penn State Board of Trustees first petitioned the Centre County Court of Common Pleas in April, asking a judge to force Penn State to turn over a mountain of documents that formed the basis of the controversial Freeh Report.

Attorneys for both sides met behind closed doors with Bedford County Judge Daniel Howsare on Tuesday, which led the judge to lay out a schedule that should resolve the dispute by October.

Dan Brier, an attorney for the trustees, says Howsare has scheduled oral arguments for September 8, which will be the first hearing in the case. After that, both sides will submit briefs supporting their positions by September 22, with response due by October 1.

From there, it’s only a matter of time before Howsare rules on the petition.

“We’re pleased with the progress so far,” Brier says. “We think we’re on track to see a decision soon.”

The Freeh Report has been a controversial topic among the Penn State Board of Trustees for many months. Released in 2012, the report accuses several former Penn State leaders of attempting to cover up the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The alumni-elected trustees – Anthony Lubrano, Ted Brown, Barbara Doran, Robert Jubelirer, Ryan McCombie, William Oldsey, and Alice Pope – have been very critical of the report and its perceived negative impacts on the university.

The trustees have repeatedly argued they need full access to all the documents that formed the basis of the report in order to fulfill their duties to the university.

Penn State originally offered the trustees access to the materials if the trustees would agree to a confidentiality agreement. The trustees declined to sign the agreement, framing the issue as a question of openness and transparency.

By contrast, Penn State attorneys have repeatedly framed this issue as a question of protecting employees' identities. When Penn State employees were interviewed by investigator Louis Freeh about the Sandusky scandal, they were promised confidentiality to protect their identities and encourage honest answers.

By releasing the requested documents without confidentiality restrictions, Penn State argues that interviewees could become public targets, which could discourage people from reporting wrongdoing in the future. 

Penn State has also accused the alumni-elected trustees of prior violations of confidentiality, which the university’s attorneys use as evidence that the trustees should not be granted unrestricted access to the Freeh documents.

 



Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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