According to news reports, the Penn State Board of Trustees held a special meeting on October 26th to discuss the settling of claims brought against Penn State by victims of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Civil attorneys have filed a few lawsuits already on behalf the victims. The special meeting of the board approved the retention of the law firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP, to negotiate the settlements with the victims and their attorneys. The firm previously negotiated settlements with victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the twin towers, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. The board also passed a resolution that allows a subcommittee of the board to approve settlements.
Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship - Slow Down
Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship, an alumni watchdog group, asked the board to table Friday's vote on the settlement issue until the criminal case against former school officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are resolved. The Penn Staters group said in a statement this week that it remained sympathetic with victims and the need for those responsible to "pay the price" for failing to protect them, but Penn Staters believed that the trustees should "not to act in haste, but rather to allow the judicial process to take its course before addressing possible victim settlement claims." When the board was asked if they shared the Penn Staters' groups concerns that this was being handled in a hasty manner, trustee chairwoman Karen Peetz said that "[w]e decided that wasn't a super-relevant point."
I think that everyone wants the victims to be compensated in a timely manner with the goal of helping them obtain closure and helping them to move forward. I tend to agree with the Penn Staters group and question why a special meeting of the board was required when a normal meeting was scheduled in three weeks. Spokesman David La Torre said the board needed to have the special meeting rather than waiting three weeks until the next regularly scheduled one because "it's important to be prepared in the event settlements are reached prior to the November meeting."
Settlements may be reached in three weeks? Settlements that will include millions of dollars are possibly going to be finalized in three weeks? Why is Penn State looking to move at warp speed? My concerns were also addressed by Trustee Anthony Lubrano when he stated "I'm still wondering what the rush is for us to be going down this path at this time."
The move to fast track these settlements flies in the fact of Penn State's defense strategy in dealing with the whistleblower lawsuit filed by former Penn State football coach Mike McQueary. Penn State is trying to delay McQueary's case and claims that it is unfair to force Penn State mount a vigorous defense while the criminal trials against two former Penn State administrators are pending. I still believe that Penn State wants to delay McQueary's suit as Penn State's defense strategy will be to attack the crediblity of McQueary, and attacking his crediblity now will hurt the prosecution's case at the former Penn State administrators.
I think that almost everyone would like to see the Sandusky victims compensated in a timely manner, but I wonder if the board is not making more hasty decisions that harm Penn State in the long run. As a Penn State alum and a State College criminal defense lawyer, I am familiar with the pending issues and the legal process, and I simply do not understand why we are trying to move so quickly.