Penn State Opens the Books

On a new Web site, the university gives a detailed breakdown of costs stemming from the Sandusky scandal. The site also includes PDF versions of the signed contracts of new football coach Bill O'Brien and key school administrators.

Penn State has launched a new Web site offering unprecedented access to key university records and documents.

Included on the site is a detailed breakdown of legal and public relations fees incurred in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal that broke in early November, a figure that has already reached $3.2 million.

“This is a reminder of the commitment to open communication to the fullest extent possible,” said Penn State president Rod Erickson, who took over when former president Graham Spanier resigned after the Sandusky scandal erupted.

At the time, the university drew heavy criticism for operating in a secretive manner. According to a grand jury report, certain university officials had known about allegations against Sandusky for more than a decade. But no serious action was taken against the former football assistant coach until the grand jury filed child sex abuse charges in early November.

Sandusky maintains his innocence and is under house arrest awaiting trial.

Penn State, meanwhile, has spent millions on legal fees and public relations firms. And now — thanks to Erickson's vow for the university to be more open to the media and public — we know how much and where it is going.

A total of $2,468,137 has been spent on an internal investigation and crisis communications. The internal investigation is being led by former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm, the Freeh Group. Public relations are being handled by the law firm Reed Smith and the PR firm Ketchum.

Another $467,940 has been spent on legal services and defense fees. Two civil suits have already been filed against Penn State in connection with the Sandusky scandal. Another $50,131 has been spent on what PSU is calling “externally initiated investigations.”

Penn State is also picking up legal fees for Spanier (who has not been charged with any crime), as well as former athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Shultz, who are both awaiting trial for allegedly lying to the grand jury investigating Sandusky. Those fees total $210,309 to date.

According to the site, all legal fees and public relations costs associated with what it calls the “Sandusky controversy” will be covered by insurance policies and from interest revenues from investments. The school insists tuition fees, alumni donations and/or tax revenues will not be used to pay for any of the expenses.

The site includes a wealth of other information not previously available at Penn State.

Included is a downloadable PDF version of the school's employment contract with new head football coach Bill O'Brien (he is making $2.3 million per year). It even shows the signatures of O'Brien and acting athletic director Dave Joyner, as well as that of university attorney Cynthia Baldwin.

That is a far cry from the way things used to be handled at Penn State. For decades, the university refused to even release former coach Joe Paterno's salary. It only came to light in 2007, after years of legal wrangling between media outlets and the state.

The university has also uploaded its annual financial report to the NCAA, revealing the athletic department generated $116,118,025 and had total expenses of $101,336,483 in the last year.

Copies of Erickson's contract with the university (he is making $515,000 per year) and Joyner's deal (he is taking in $33,000 per month and has the use of a car) are available on the site, too.

The site can be seen at: http://openness.psu.edu/


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