Larry Wittig is perhaps the most improbable of Pennsylvania school board presidents.
He has been tried for and acquitted of rape.
He has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a teen whom he met as her crew coach.
He has been accused by other former rowers of pursuing them sexually as teens, including one who said he brazenly reached between her legs on an overnight rowing trip.
Yet two months after those facts came to light, he continues to lead the school board in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County. And his supporters in the community, where he has held sway for more than 20 years, appear to be emboldened.
Take, for example, a recent school board meeting. When a mother of three district students rose to challenge Wittig's fitness for the job, she was minutes later not-so-subtly threatened by one of his supporters.
Compare that with the response elsewhere. Within a day of the allegations being made, Gov. Wolf accepted Wittig's resignation as chairman of the state Board of Education and he was ousted from posts at two Philadelphia universities.
The dichotomy shows a nuanced reality at a time when numerous men have fallen from power after being accused of sexual misconduct — #MeToo is all that needs to be said in some circles, but in others the words only start the debate.
"To be frank, Larry is probably the most powerful man in Tamaqua," one statewide education professional who has done work in Tamaqua, and agreed to speak only if not named, said of the local reaction.
Wittig has weathered the storm not only in his hometown. He remains a member of Philadelphia's distinguished Vesper Boat Club, where in the early 1980s he first met several of his accusers. John B. Kelly III, of the famed rowing family for which Kelly Drive is named, made a motion to remove Wittig from the club at the Vesper board's January meeting.
There was no second.
Kelly soon resigned from the board in protest.
"If that happened today, everyone agreed we'd let the coach go," Kelly said, after being contacted by the Inquirer and Daily News. "So in that sense I think we have to take a similar position, even though it happened a long time ago."
Kirk Beckman, the president of Vesper's board, declined to comment.
As Wittig tries to move forward from the scandal, others are just responding to it.
The US Center for SafeSport, which investigates reports of sexual misconduct within U.S. Olympic programs, last month opened an investigation into the allegations, according to one of Wittig's accusers who has been contacted by the organization.
Vesper, while a private club, falls under SafeSport's jurisdiction as a member of US Rowing. Last month SafeSport temporarily suspended Wittig's membership at Vesper, pending the outcome of its investigation, according to its online disciplinary records.
Wittig, in a statement provided by his attorney, called the women's allegations "utterly unfounded" and said he was cooperating with the investigation.
"In fact, I have asked that the process be expedited so that the actual facts can be put on the table, rather than the rumor and innuendo promoted by the media," Wittig said.
US Rowing CEO Patrick McNerney, who briefly rowed at Vesper in the mid-1980s and knew Wittig at the time, was unequivocal: "What Larry did … was entirely inappropriate."
He acknowledged it can be difficult for any organization to respond to allegations lodged decades after events and declined to comment on the Vesper board's inaction. But, he said, were Wittig a member of USRowing, which he is not, his membership would have been immediately suspended when the accusations were made.
Doing so, McNerney said, would have reinforced that USRowing takes "this form of behavior very seriously."
Wittig came under scrutiny in late December, when the newspapers outlined allegations of sexual misconduct that spanned more than a decade.
When he was 21, Wittig was charged with raping a 15-year-old friend of his sister. He was acquitted. In December Wittig said his accuser had lied to extort money from his family. When interviewed, the woman stood by her testimony.
Other women told the Inquirer and Daily News that Wittig had pursued relationships with them when they were teens. One, who asked to not be named out of concerns for her privacy, said she had a nearly two-year sexual relationship with Wittig that started when she was 16 and he was 29 and married.
Another, Annette DeMichele, said she met Wittig when she was 17 and a rower at Harriton High School, which practiced at Vesper. Wittig, who offered to coach her team, was 32.
DeMichele said the nearly year-and-a-half relationship started the summer after her high school graduation and continued at University of Pennsylvania, where she served as a coxswain for the men's team and Wittig coached the female rowers. Wittig resigned amid an investigation by the school's ombudsman into, in part, their relationship.
Confronted with the women's stories, Wittig initially said he "categorically denied" them. He later told a Tamaqua reporter that he had had sex with DeMichele but called it a "lapse in judgment at one time."
Wittig has been building political capital in Schuylkill County for decades.
He has been president of the Tamaqua Area School Board since 1995, the year he was elected. He was appointed to the state Board of Education by Gov. Tom Ridge in 2001 and named chairman by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011. Wolf accepted his resignation in December.
Wittig and his wife, Karen, have been longtime donors to Republican candidates, giving nearly $40,000 since 1998, according to campaign-finance reports.
About $4,000 went to Corbett, and $6,000 to Sen. Pat Toomey. He gave nearly $12,000 to State Sen. David Argall, of Tamaqua. Wittig and his wife gave about $7,500 to former Sen. Rick Santorum's presidential bids. Santorum in April tweeted a photo with Wittig, calling him "my friend."
Wittig also has business relationships with numerous local politicians. In addition to owning an accounting practice, he is president of the Tamaqua Transfer & Recycling Inc., a waste management company that has held contracts with several nearby towns including Tamaqua.
His company currently has a contract for trash removal with the Tamaqua school district.
The board has been largely silent since the allegations became public. Several members did not respond to requests to comment for this story.
Nicholas Boyle, a school board member who on Facebook called the Inquirer and Daily News article "Fake News at its finest," said he decided to stand behind Wittig after speaking with him directly and researching DeMichele. She is a Democrat and he believes her decision to share her story could have been politically motivated.
DeMichele said it had nothing to do with politics.
Boyle also said he discounted the impropriety of the relationship given that Wittig did not directly coach DeMichele at Penn.
In recent weeks, tension over the board's silence has spilled into public view.
Sarah Casey, president and CEO of Schuylkill Women in Crisis, a nonprofit for victims of sexual violence, said the board's inaction sent a damaging message to victims of sexual abuse: "to keep silent, to understand that they will not be believed, and to expect that even if they are believed, nothing will happen because 'justice' is for the powerful, and victims are not powerful."
At a school board meeting last month, the first to see any public discussion of the allegations, three speakers praised Wittig's character, and most of the audience applauded, as seen on a video of the meeting posted online. One said Wittig's leadership had allowed the district to flourish amid many challenges. Another, his business partner, thanked Wittig for giving her a job when others wouldn't and called him a defender of women's rights.
Liz Pinkey, a mother of three children in the district, was the only person to speak against Wittig. She called the accusations a "black mark" on the town.
"After the last board meeting the statement was made that no one has asked for his resignation," she said. "I am here. I am asking for it now. And I am asking for it on behalf of those who are too scared to speak up."
She feared, she said, that speaking out would lead to retaliation against her family.
It did, within minutes.
"Your husband roomed with my son out at Penn State. And I hear some of the stories that went on out there," Tim Houser, another speaker, said to Pinkey, pointing at her from across the room. "But, you know what, what happened at Penn State stays at Penn State. So don't throw stones."
Wittig and the other board members said nothing in response.
The morning after the meeting, Pinkey said she has known Houser nearly her entire life. He was invited to her wedding. His son was in her bridal party, she said.