CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday that Penn State’s trustees must act firmly and swiftly in response to an unfolding child sex abuse scandal and expressed disappointment over the response of university officials.
“There is a legal issue and there is a moral issue,” said Corbett, echoing similar comments made Monday by his state police commissioner. “I am personally disappointed in the lack of action and had to contain that for the last two-plus years. The board is going to address that.”
The investigation that led to charges late last week began more than two years ago. A former assistant football coach is charged with molesting boys and two high-ranking school administrators are charged with lying to a grand jury.
Corbett oversaw the inquiry as attorney general, the job he held until taking office as governor in January. He said there were legal and ethical considerations that made it problematic for him to speak about aspects of the case.
Corbett discussed the case Wednesday at an event in the Harrisburg suburbs where he signed a statewide ban on texting while driving.
The governor and three of his Cabinet secretaries are members of the Penn State Board of Trustees. He said he rearranged his schedule so he could be in State College as the board meets Thursday and Friday.
He declined to discuss the future of Penn State President Graham Spanier or comment on Joe Paterno’s decision, announced Wednesday, to retire at the end of the season. He said the board will address those issues.
“I will express my opinion first to the board before I express it to the media,” Corbett said.
Spanier and Paterno are under scrutiny for their responses when a graduate assistant reported witnessing child sex abuse in a team locker room in 2002. Police were not called, and Spanier and Paterno have said they were not told about the seriousness of what the graduate student saw. One-time Paterno top assistant Jerry Sandusky faces charges he assaulted a young boy.
Corbett said he will advise fellow trustees based on decades of experience dealing with child-abuse cases as a prosecutor.
“He who preys on a child is the worst type of person in the world as far as I’m concerned,” Corbett said. “That’s why I have urged the board to deal with this quickly and swiftly. Other comments have to wait until after the board meets, after they take an action.”
He said the board needs to put together a strategy to ensure a similar problem does not occur in the future.
The governor said he did not participate in a board conference call on the matter Tuesday night because of a conflicting commitment.
Penn State has work ahead of it, Corbett said.
“Many different aspects of the university are going to have to deal with the fallout from this, and I think that’s why the board has to demonstrate they have taken control of this,” he said. That would serve “to reassure the general public, to reassure donors, to reassure students that Penn State understands what they need to do, they’re doing it and they’re doing it quickly.”
Corbett and his secretaries of Education, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources are Penn State board members by virtue of their offices, but the governor has far less influence over how the school is run than he does for the 14 universities in the state-owned State System of Higher Education.
Penn State, Temple, Lincoln and Pitt are “state-related” universities that are independently run but get considerable state funding. Penn State’s state appropriation for the current year is $272 million, down $62 million from the budget year that ended in June.
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