October 9, 2012; Source: New York Times

Convicted child sexual predator Jerry Sandusky has been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison for 45 counts involving his actions with young boys. The offenses happened while Sandusky was affiliated and identified closely with two local nonprofit organizations, Penn State University and The Second Mile. As the Sandusky-related saga continues, the effects on Penn State, The Second Mile, and the people they serve continue to mount.

As founder of The Second Mile and as former assistant football coach at Penn State, Sandusky had access to facilities and benefits at Penn State to impress his intended victims. He also had the credibility and position to persuade others to allow him access to vulnerable boys.

Sandusky steadfastly maintains his innocence and plans to appeal his conviction. In a recorded statement from jail on Monday as well as in statements in court Tuesday, Sandusky denies the allegations made, says that his accusers have conspired against him, and that he has been faithful to his wife throughout their 46-year marriage. He believes that prosecutors eager for a conviction rushed the trial and that having more time to prepare and present a case would have enabled him to demonstrate his innocence.

Regardless of the outcome of Sandusky’s appeals, there are other criminal and civil trials to come. The Second Mile’s board has decided to cease operations, dissolve its corporate status, and it sought to assign its assets to a Texas-based nonprofit organization, Arrow Child and Family Ministries, with a presence in Pennsylvania and a similar mission. This effort is being blocked by some of Sandusky’s victims and their attorneys, who believe that assets of The Second Mile should be preserved for potential payment of victims’ claims.

Former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Mike McQueary has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university and former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley are awaiting criminal prosecution for perjury and failure to report child sex abuse. Based on the evidence presented, it’s entirely possible that other lawsuits from Sandusky’s victims and others will follow. It seems likely that the Sandusky saga will continue to occupy the agendas of Penn State, The Second Mile, prosecutors, courts, victims, and others for several years to come.

Although the legal processes will continue, there are already many lessons for nonprofits in the unfolding scandal. We’ve addressed the Freeh Report’s recommendations as well as the early lessons from looking at the governance practices in place at The Second Mile. In light of the leadership issues raised at these two organizations, are there changes you see as critical to make at your own nonprofit? –Michael Wyland