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PSU board chair grants access to Freeh documents with conditions

PSU board chair grants access to Freeh report documents with conditions.

The leaders of Pennsylvania State University's board of trustees have agreed to make available to its alumni-elected board members documents and notes used to compile the investigatory report on the school's handling of the child sex abuse scandal.

But there will be conditions.

Trustees who want to view the documents used to compile the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh will have to sign a confidentiality agreement, and certain documents will be excluded to protect confidentiality, Board Chairman Keith Masser said in a letter Monday to the alumni trustees requesting access to the documents.

"In providing access to the documents, we intend to take other steps to protect the identity of individuals," Masser also wrote.

He didn't elaborate on what those measures would be.

Masser's letter was in response to a request by the nine alumni-elected trustees last week to view the materials used to compile the report, which they have said unfairly tarnished the university's culture. Freeh accused former university leaders of conspiring to cover up child sexual abuse allegations about the school's former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Masser in his letter said the materials will be made available at the Philadelphia law offices of Saul Ewing, which is representing the university in the civil claims against the university by Sandusky victims.

"The documents, and in particular the interview memoranda, include sensitive and private information shared by hundreds of Penn State employees, officials and others associated with the University, with (Freeh) in exchange for a promise of confidentiality," Masser wrote. "The university intends to honor the promise of confidentiality to the maximum extent permitted by law.

"The University also believes the interview memoranda and some of the underlying documents to be attorney-client communications and/or protected by the work product doctrine and other privileges and statutory restrictions. Some of the documents may also be at issue and/or subject to discovery requests and confidentiality orders in pending litigation."

He also noted that alumni trustees are in effect requesting access to millions of pages and that "there are both legal and practical issues to be considered. I will leave those details to be worked out with legal counsel."

About 3.5 million documents plus notes and e-mails are believed to be available from the report.

It's not clear whether Masser's response will satisfy the alumni trustees.

The request from alumni trustees is the latest volley in a battle between board leadership and alumni trustees over how the university handled the Sandusky scandal. Alumni trustees recently lost votes to reopen the Freeh report and to have the university join a lawsuit against the NCAA for handing down football sanctions as punishment for the university's culpability in the scandal.

The Freeh report, released in July 2012, has remained a major point of contention on the 32-member board, with alumni-elected trustees saying the report blamed university leaders without evidence.

It said former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, and the late football coach Joe Paterno conspired to cover up allegations about Sandusky's abuse.

The NCAA subsequently used the report to fine the university $60 million, vacate football victories, ban bowl game participation, and deny scholarships.

Spanier, Curley, and Schultz await trial on perjury, conspiracy, and other charges stemming from the 2011 indictment of Sandusky, now in prison for a minimum of 30 years for sexually assaulting young boys.