The Cardinals are meeting in Rome to choose a new pope, so I thought it was a good time to resurface. Reading my crap will give you something to do while awaiting the white smoke and the joyful proclamation, “Habemus papam!”
“It’s the Russian!” —George Faber, The Shoes of the Fisherman
By the way, those of you who are inspired by the papal selection process might want to check out this turkey’s favorite pope movie, The Shoes of the Fisherman, a 1968 classic starring Anthony Quinn as a Ukrainian archbishop who served twenty years doing hard labor as a political prisoner in Siberia before going to Rome and being elevated to Cardinal. Set during a Sino-Soviet feud at the height of the Cold War, the drama unfolds with the sitting pope kicking the bucket and our hero, Kiril Lakota, selected as his successor after long deliberations by the College of Cardinals. David Janssen (of “The Fugitive” TV series) plays an American reporter named George Faber (probably also a CIA agent) who serves as our trusty narrator.
I thought Lakota was an Native American tribe, not a Ukrainian name. Artificially Sweetened has told me that her mother told her that her mother told her that Ukrainian names end in “enko.” So this guy should have been Archbishop Kirilenko, who coincidentally used to play center for the Utah Jazz. But I digress.
Our Sudden Impact topic for today involves the Penn State BoT, the Freeh Report, and some potential shitstorm material. It seems that some emails were leaked that paint the Freeh report as the made-to-order contrivance we all thought it was. These emails, unearthed in a “right to know” request filed with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office by blogger Ryan Bagwell, suggest that there were strong ties between the Freeh “investigators” and the Sandusky prosecutors, tainting the ostensible independence of the Freeh investigation.
Specifically, upon the Tickle Monster’s conviction in June last year, Freeh investigator Gregory Paw emailed Frank Fina, the lead Sandusky prosecutor saying, “I am very proud of you and the entire prosecution team.”
Fina responded the next day, “Thanks were happy too. [sic] It was great working with you guys.”
Later, in July, when the Freeh report was issued, Fina congratulated Paw in an email. “Truly great work.
I’ve read a couple different accounts, but Bagwell’s is obviously the gold standard since it was he who dug up the emails.
The Freeh report was a shoddy job with a myriad flaws, as was driven home by the Paterno report. However, as more evidence piles up, this turkey’s bullshit detector is flashing red, spinning, and blaring like one of those German Gestapo polizeiwagens in a World War II movie. The clear question is: Did the Penn State Board of Trustees commission the Freeh group to create a boondoggle report so the BoT could blame Curley, Paterno, Schultz, and Spanier and save their own asses? Evidence is mounting that this was the case.
Surma and Peetz are exiting gracefully, before the proverbial shit hits the fan. However, the aroma is pretty ripe in that boardroom, and the fan is on. It is this turkey’s hope that few more revelations such as Bagwell’s will precipitate the much anticipated fecal maelstrom we all hope and pray for.
(I’m told that it’s now acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition.)
How, exactly, was the Freeh group hired by the board, and what were the BoT’s directives established during the hiring process? Funny you should ask, inasmuch as a copy of the engagement letter has emerged. The letter, signed by Louis J. Freeh and amended presumably by the PSUBoT or its attorneys then countersigned by Steve Garban, Chair, Board of Trustees, and K.C. Frazier, as Chair, Special Investigations Task Force on December 2, 2011, is available at Scribd. (The amendments were mainly changing “Special Committee” to “Investigative Task Force”, as the latter presumably has more bureaucratic bullshit appeal.) I’ll give you a brief Turkey interpretation of the main points of the letter.
1. Scope. Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP (FSS) has been engaged to perform “an independent, full and complete investigation of the recently publicized allegations of sexual abuse at the facilities and the alleged failure of PSU personnel to report such sexual abuse to appropriate police and government authorities.
The report will contain FSS’s findings concerning:
- failures that occurred in the reporting process
- the cause for those failures
- who had knowledge of the allegations of sexual abuse
- how those allegations were handled by Trustees, administrators, coaches and other staff
The report will make recommendations for actions to be taken to ensure that those and similar failures do not occur again.
Now, here’s some cool stuff. “It is understood … that FSS will act under the sole direction of the Task Force… It is also understood that FSS’s investigation will be completed in parallel to, but independent of, any other investigation that is conducted by any policy agencies, governmental authorities or agencies, or other organizations within or outside of PSU, and will not interfere with any such other investigations.” (Emphasis mine.)
Well, now. How about that! Apparently, parallel lines do meet.
Finally, the time frame for the report is left wide-ass open!
2. Rates. If you’re looking for some juicy ammo with respect to FSS billing rates, you won’t find them, as the actual amounts have been redacted prior to publication of the letter. Too bad, because rates for Freeh, FSS partners, investigators, non-partner lawyers, and paraprofessionals were all spelled out in the letter. The Magic Marker obscurations are about all the same length, though, and all are long enough to hide four digits. No dollar sign was needed because each amount was succeeded by “USD”, meaning United States Dollars, that ever-moving target being inexorably devalued by the profligacy of the corrupt federal government we the people elected (but I digress). What the hell — you all know that the damn Freeh report cost in excess of six million buckaroos, so why belabor the trivial little components?
3. Disbursements. They can (and did) charge for travel, Lexis Nexus research, international phone calls (I bet there were plenty of calls to research the Sandusky family in Poland), but not paper clips and staples — except if they need office supplies that are “specifically required for a particular engagement”. Oops, yeah, they can charge for paper clips if they deem them specifically required.
4. Payment Terms. Billed monthly, due and payable within thirty days after billing, and late charges accrue at 1% per month on the unpaid balance.
5. Retention of Third Parties. If they need outside help, they can bring in whoever they please. They’ll notify the Task Force with the expected fees and costs. One of those third parties will be Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC, in which Louis J. Freeh is a partner and has controlling interest, as he does in FSS. FSS is a law firm; FGIS is a separate investigative and consulting group.
See, this way, Freeh can charge whatever the hell he wants even though the rates for FSS were spelled out under “Rates”.
6. Confidentiality and Responding to Subpoenas and Other Requests for Information. The work is covered by attorney-client privilege, unless it is waived by the parties. If FSS or any third-party (read FGIS) is required to respond to a subpoena or other formal request for information, we’ll let the Task Force know so the BoT can object, but you’re going to have to pay FSS for our time one way or the other.
7. General Responsibilities of Attorney and Client. FSS produces a report; PSUBoT pays. BoT will give FSS information but won’t get in the way. Oh, and by the way, if FSS screws up, Penn State is on the hook, as expressed in this antigrammatical classic, “… the Trustees have agreed to indemnify FSS it’s [sic] partners, employees, agents …”
8. Waiver of Future Conflicts. FSS can pull out whenever they feel there’s a conflict of interest.
9. Engagement Limited to Identified Client. FSS’s client is the Task Force established by the PSUBoT and no one else.
10. Termination. Either party can terminate upon written notice. At that point, PSUBoT must pay up.
11. Client Files. FSS will maintain a file (“Client File”) which will remain their property along with the Work Product, which is presumably the final report.
The closing paragraph gets a bit defensive about why such a lengthy, formal letter is necessary. “While ordinarily we might prefer to choose a less formal method of confirming the terms of our engagement than a written statement such as this, it has been our experience that a letter such as this is useful both to FSS and to the client. Moreover, in certain instances, FSS is required by law to memorialize these matters in writing. In any event, we would request that the Trustees and the Task Force review this letter and, if it comports with your and the Task Force’s understanding of our respective responsibilities, so indicate by returning a signed copy to [Freeh] at your earliest convenience so as not to impede the commencement of work…”
Uh, huh. So they already agreed to this crap informally (and God knows what was really said during those closed-door negotiations), and now Freeh is worried that this formalization might draw scrutiny from some hostile, prying eyes. Sarah Ganim was busy interviewing with CNN, so in reality, no eyes were prying. So, Freeh tells the BoT to sign the thing quickly so the deadlineless work might commence.
Are we having fun yet?
So, the letter didn’t state the subterranean mission explicitly. However, having been a consultant myself, I know that engagement letters and stated missions often times belie the true mission of a consulting gig. An old, wise management consultant I used to work with named “Fitz” (I forget whether that was short for Fitzgerald or Fitzpatrick) used to call it “solve for X” — in other words, dig beneath the surface and find out what the client really wants. For example, many times they’re looking to justify firing a specific vice president or regional manager, but the assignment is really couched as the effects of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds. But I digress (that’s three times — who’s counting?).
Did the “Task Force” or “Special Committee” ever intimate to Freeh that admitting fault in the Sandusky matter and scapegoating Curley, Paterno, Schultz, and Spanier was the desired result?
I keep asking the question. Someday, we’ll know.
PS4RS comments about the letter:
March 11, 2013 —- Beginning in April 2012, long before the issuance of the Freeh Report, officials of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship began requesting a copy of the engagement letter of Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan. Those requests continued as it became apparent that FSS was not working for the University but was instead acting on behalf of the Trustees, as outlined in the PS4RS review of the Freeh Report in September 2012.
Now, nearly one full year after our initial request, the FSS engagement letter has finally been released and its confirms our worst fears: contrary to what the public, the media, and even the NCAA were led to believe, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan was not hired by Penn State University, nor was that firm acting as counsel to Penn State. Instead, that firm was hired by the Board of Trustees and, as such, FSS’ ethical obligation was to the Board of Trustees and not to the University.
This is far more than semantics – this goes to the very nature of which entity was owed an ethical duty by FSS. Sadly, that entity was NOT Penn State. In light of this incredibly significant disclosure, it is imperative that the public, the press, and the NCAA review the work of FSS in a far different light, given that the firm was neither engaged by nor working for the benefit of Penn State University. This is yet another epic failure of the part of the Board of Trustees in their stewardship of Penn State.
This is a stretch for me. Sometimes PS4RS hits the mark; sometimes they miss by a mile, and this is one of those latter cases. Making the point that the Freeh report was commissioned by and for the BoT and not the University makes sense only if one subscribes to the PS4RS belief that the BoT is operating at cross-purposes with the University. Unfortunately, the BoT is the ruling body, such as it is, whether PS4RS likes it or not. Who the hell else would have commissioned an investigation? Assuming that it was appropriate for the BoT to commission the report, who the hell else should receive it? The client of record cannot be a diffuse entity. Who is authorized to sign contracts for the University? The BoT. PS4RS goes out of its way to impugn the BoT and in many cases they are right. This one, however, makes them seem like they’re blowing wind.
Penn State football historian and commentator Lou Prato is unhappy with the revelation that Penn State had passed a new personnel policy on January 14 that required national searches for hiring all head coaches, as well as associate athletic directors and athletic directors. This is pursuant to a Freeh recommendation, obviously intended to break the perceived inbreeding of the PSU athletic program. In his article for BWI, Prato declares the recommendation illogical and disputes the notion of inbreeding.
I’m still catching up on Penn State and Papal happenings, so I’ll sign off for now. There’s plenty of stuff to think about in matters Freeh. Anyone want to speculate on what happens next?
Thanks to Joe and RD for passing me tidbits during my hiatus.