Multiple Stories of Nonprofit Problems Regarding Sandusky and Second Mile

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November 26, 2011; Source: Lock Haven Express (Associated Press) | The number of potential angles on the Sandusky scandal at Penn State covered by the NPQ Newswire cover is seemingly endless, but our focus on the nonprofit angle requires occasional updates on stories that have specific implications for nonprofit governance, finance, and ethics. While the NPQ Newswire was on a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, three stories about Second Mile, the charity for at-risk youth founded by Sandusky, caught our eye:

  • Although the NPQ Newswire commented about the potential of Second Mile’s closing down or transferring its assets and programs to another organization—an option that former Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham will examine on behalf of the charity—we overlooked one of the reasons why an otherwise financially robust charity like Second Mile would consider this approach. Two lawyers representing alleged victims figured it out, though, and filed suit to prevent Second Mile from dissolving or transferring it assets, because victims might want to sue the charity as well as Sandusky individually as well as look for monetary compensation. For example, according to the Associated Press story, Second Mile’s allowing Sandusky to individually supervise kids on outings contrasts somewhat unfavorably with the “two-deep” policy of the Boy Scouts, which requires that there be two adult supervisors during off-site activities.
  • MSNBC’s investigative unit reported that Second Mile had been facing a contempt citation for withholding documents from prosecutors, and there are big gaps in those documents that have been released, including a couple of years of Sandusky’s travel records and expenditures.
  • The Second Mile stories continue to worsen. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were someone at the New York City charities A Better Chance and Fresh Air Fund and had authorizing sending kids to Second Mile? Both charities did so, including, as A Better Chance did, sending kids to live at a Second Mile facility during a 13-year relationship between the charities.

Whatever might be the truth and extent of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged pedophilia and the involvement and knowledge of both Second Mile and Penn State, there is no question that the Sandusky scandal has harmed the credibility of at-risk youth charities and the credibility of the foster-care system due to one of their own. One Central Pennsylvania charity’s lax oversight of its founder’s unsupervised interactions with the kids in its care may have long-lasting consequences—not only, most important, for the kids, but also for other youth charities.—Rick Cohen

  • Michael J. Rosen

    It seems that everyday brings us a new insight into the Sandusky scandal. You’ve touched on a new, interesting point in this post. What will be the impact on other charities?

    In Scotland, a number of years ago, a cancer charity was embroiled in a financial scandal. That charity took a big fundraising hit as a result. However, completely independent and clean cancer charities in Scotland also saw contributions drop by as much as 30%. It took nearly a year before giving began to recover for those innocent charities.

    I suspect that the news about The Second Mile, Penn State, and Syracuse will have a broad, chilling effect that we have yet to realize.