November 29, 2011; Source: Washington Post (Associated Press) | We almost need to update the Sandusky child abuse scandal daily, just for the nonprofit implications of the travails of the youth charity that Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky founded over three decades ago, where it is alleged that he recruited his young victims. Earlier this week, we reported on the fear of some of Sandusky’s alleged victims that the charity might go out of business or transfer its assets to another organization, and thus deprive the victims of suing for damages. Now comes word that the charity has asked donors to shift their presumably yet-to-be-made donations to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
This seems a pretty solid signal that Second Mile is moving rapidly toward shutting down. The charity has already argued against a court filing from two lawyers representing one of the alleged victims that seeks to stop Second Mile from shutting down in order to avoid lawsuits, claiming that the proposed injunction “would destroy its ability to manage its affairs.” The “affairs” that would be destroyed would be the shutting down or transferring of its assets, obviously. One can see the vulnerability. The Associated Press reports that Second Mile has $1.2 million in unrestricted cash, $5.2 million in restricted cash, and $3.3 million in real estate among its assets, the obvious areas of interest for aggrieved plaintiffs.
Not saying no to the gift horse, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape has given the green light to donors who want to shift their donations from Second Mile, and reposted Second Mile’s statement on the PCAR website. The vice chair of the Second Mile board of directors, David Woodle, said that charity’s intent is to “put more attention on survivors of sexual abuse,” because of a concern, he said, that the “victims of sexual abuse are getting lost in the message and that’s the priority.”
It may be that Second Mile was a good charity serving at-risk kids but for the decades of Sandusky’s alleged prowling for victims, and keeping it alive—with Sandusky expunged—might be a worthwhile course of action. But somehow the mix of statements about shutting down, transferring assets, fighting restrictions in court, and telling donors to give elsewhere paint a picture of an organization scrambling to dodge questions of liability. Given that Second Mile has hired former Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham as its legal counsel in this situation, we’d like to know what advice she is offering Second Mile’s board, and whether she is discovering organizational and individual behaviors surrounding the Sandusky issues that should be reported to the authorities for prosecution.—Rick Cohen