The second chapter of the Jerry Sandusky scandal is about to be written, and it looks like it will be radically different from the first.
Chapter 1 focused on Sandusky and the boys he sexually abused, during and after his tenure as an assistant football coach at Penn State. Chapter 2, it appears, will focus on the university leaders who had information about Sandusky's crimes and chose not to report it to the proper authorities.
This kind of moral lapse among those who lead an institution of higher learning might be shocking to the public. But I worked in a university setting for almost 20 years, and it does not shock me in the least.
Ironically, my experience was at one of Penn State's regular football rivals--the University of Alabama. I witnessed moral decay in the UA System that, while not as dramatic as what we now are seeing at Penn State, certainly rivals it in severity and scope.
In fact, I would argue that the depravity of UA officials might actually be worse than what is being uncovered at Penn State. While Sandusky's crimes were monstrous, many of them occurred while he was not a Penn State employee. The wrongs of university leaders appear, so far, to be sins of omission, not sins of commission. And one could argue that PSU officials felt hamstrung because Sandusky did not report to any of them during most of the inquiry.
As for University of Alabama officials, I've seen signs that they do more than cover up wrongdoing; they actively engage in it--and it has cost taxpayers perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. From a personal standpoint, it cost me my job.
Let's start with this humdinger of a fact: The president of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees has documented ties to insurance fraud that netted a 15-year federal prison sentence for a man in, of all places, Pennsylvania. Paul Bryant Jr., the son of UA's late football-coaching icon Paul "Bear" Bryant," heads the board that governs the three-campus UA System.
When Bryant Jr. isn't conducting university business, he serves as CEO of Greene Group Inc, a corporation with interests in catfish farming, dog tracks and gaming, cement, insurance, and more. One of the companies under the Greene Group banner was Alabama Reassurance, which was implicated in a $15-million fraud scheme that sent a Philadelphia lawyer/entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart to federal prison in 1997.
|Paul Bryant Jr.|
At the Birmingham campus where I worked (UAB), President Carol Garrison was involved in a scandal that led to the resignation of University of Tennessee President John Shumaker. Garrison and Shumaker were a romantic item, from their days together at the University of Louisville, and made frequent use of a university plane for their personal pleasure. Garrison was in her first year on the job at UAB, and her role in the Shumaker affair would have gotten most presidents fired. But the UA System already was facing a likely discrimination lawsuit from Garrison's predecessor, so she survived and still serves as UAB president.
Garrison was one of at least two UAB presidents who helped oversee massive health-care fraud on the Birmingham campus. One of the whistleblowers in the fraud case, a forensic accountant, estimated the fraud at $300 to $600 million, but a friendly Bush-era prosecutor let UAB off with a fine of $3.4 million--less the 1 percent of the actual fraud.
As for me, I was fired in May 2008 from my job in the UAB Publications Office because I was writing this blog--on my own time, with my own resources--about corruption in Alabama legal and political circles. As a government employee, I was protected by the First Amendment, not to mention anti-discrimination laws (I was over age 40), but UA leaders apparently don't feel they have to be concerned with minor inconveniences like the U.S. Constitution and federal civil-rights law.
To be specific, I was fired for writing about the political prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Someone in the state's right-wing power structure obviously didn't appreciate my reporting and decided it would be fun to cheat me out of my job.
This isn't a supposition on my part. In a tape-recorded phone conversation with a UAB human-resources official named Anita Bonasera, she admitted that I was targeted because of the Siegelman-related content on my blog. There is little doubt that someone on Paul Bryant Jr.'s board of trustees ordered a career hit on me, and President Garrison went along with it. It's also possible that any number of federal crimes have been involved, including wire fraud, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice. A lawsuit on my wrongful termination is pending in federal court.
How do officials in a corrupt university actually talk? You can check it out in the video below, as Anita Bonasera spills the beans on why I was fired. The key segment is from about 1:40 to 2:30. In fact, you can read a transcript from a portion of the conversation between me (RS) and Anita Bonasera (AB), clearly showing that Bonasera and my supervisor, Pam Powell (and Powell's supervisor, Dale Turnbough), knew exactly why I was targeted and unlawfully fired.
I start the conversation with Bonasera by referencing a meeting with Turnbough, where I complained about on-the-job harassment I'd been experiencing from Powell for about six months--and I proceeded to file an official university grievance against Powell that same day, with Turnbough's knowledge and apparent support.
Turnbough never said anything about alleged deficiencies in my performance, which were later raised when I was placed on administrative leave. In the meeting with Turnbough, I brought up the issue of my blog and asked if that somehow explained Powell's bizarre behavior. Turnbough acknowledged that she knew of my blog but assured me it was not a problem. She also indicated that she was going to take care of the issues with Powell, and I left the meeting thinking the problem was going to be resolved. Less than one month later, I was fired--even though university policy plainly states that an employee cannot suffer retaliation after filing a grievance.
From my conversation with Bonasera:
RS: I told Dale Turnbough about this two weeks ago, and she never said a word about any of this. In fact, she said she was going to take care of it, she assured me absolutely that this had nothing to do with my blog—and then two weeks later I find out it’s all about my blog.
AB: It’s not all about your blog. Your blog was an insignificant piece. . . . The blog . . . was a very small part of the bigger picture. . . . again, related to other non-work related things. I didn’t see those non-work related things. Pam (Powell) sat down with the computer people—and I don’t know who else was there—and they reviewed what was work related and what was non-work related.
RS: And she’s the determiner of that, even though she has told us . . .
AB: She was able to determine what you were working on and whether it was related to your blog . . .
RS: Well, you just said it, it’s all about my blog. You just said that.
AB: That was a piece of it. Some of it was research related to your blog, from my understanding. I understand there were some things about Siegelman, screens up about Don Siegelman, things that they saw you doing that they consider to be research for your blog because then that was topics that you wrote about on your blog.
RS: Those are also news articles that we are supposed to keep up with, about Alabama, stuff in the news.
Do I have any doubt that University of Alabama officials would cover up for an apparent child molester if they thought it would make their lives easier? In other words, do I have any doubt that the "leaders" of the University of Alabama are every bit as morally bankrupt as those currently being unmasked at Penn State?
I have no doubt at all.