November 18, 2011; Source: WFMZHow much damage has Second Mile suffered as a result of the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, and how might it pull itself out of its downward spiral?

Second Mile has hired former Philadelphia district attorney Lynne Abraham to conduct an investigation of the organization and examine what it might do to survive—if survival is even in the cards. Abraham told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she would try “to ascertain what policies and procedures were in place and to what extent they failed.” She added, “our job is to see: can this organization have its integrity restored?”

We have seen other situations where high-profile lawyers with solid reputations for integrity have been hired to do this kind of analysis. Based on the following examples, we have several questions or cautions about Abraham’s role:

  1. The news reports we have seen refer to the Second Mile board’s having “hired” or “retained” Abraham. Abraham has a track-record of unparalleled honesty, but who pays for the work is important. If Abraham is working for/paid for by Second Mile, some critics might dismiss the review as a potential whitewash.
  2. As a corollary, Abraham has to be cautious about reaching sweeping conclusions too quickly. We were surprised by the comment about the Second Mile board she gave the Inquirer: “My guess is, what’s going to come out of this is that most of the people, if not all the people, on the board never knew anything about the abuse. I think this board is heartsick over what happened.” It seems a little quick to assume that the board was so far out of the loop that all of its members were entirely unaware of the Sandusky charges.
  3. What are Second Mile’s constraints on what Abraham can and cannot do with what she discovers? We don’t know the terms of what the Second Mile board has established as the scope of Abraham’s review. Was Abraham speaking about the scope or her own principles when she told the Inquirer, “Whatever we find out, we are committed to turning that over to the Attorney General’s Office to assist in the investigation.” Does Second Mile expect Abraham to report on miscreants?

But is a serious review really Abraham’s role? Fox Sports described Abraham’s role as legal counsel. The organization might need that function from the former DA. Fox Sports reported that Judge Leslie Dutchcot, who released Sandusky on a much lower (and unsecured) bail than recommended by prosecutors ($500,000 and an ankle bracelet), was not only a volunteer for Second Mile, but Second Mile hosted a fundraiser for Dutchcot in 2007 when she was running for office (and when Sandusky was still in a senior role in the charity). Might something be wrong as regards the 501(c)(3) Second Mile in that scenario?

Lynne Abraham is legitimate and credible, but there are questions to be answered about the substance and scope of her Second Mile assignment.—Rick Cohen