Status of Second Mile official unknown

12/9/2011 - College Football

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- An expert on nonprofit governance said that in retrospect, there were some questionable aspects to the basic structure of The Second Mile, the charity founded by former Penn State defensive coordinator coach Jerry Sandusky.

And scrutiny of The Second Mile is increasing, as a second top executive appears to have left. Katherine Genovese, the foundation's executive vice president and wife of recently departed CEO Jack Raykovitz, is no longer listed as a staff member on the charity's website.

The Second Mile announced Wednesday that some employees would be laid off by the end of the year, but it didn't give details. Genovese and other representatives of The Second Mile did not respond to questions about her status. Her apparent departure was first reported by The Patriot-News of Harrisburg (Pa.).

Penn State University and Sandusky have faced most of the scrutiny over allegations that he sexually abused boys he met through the charity's programs. He has denied the charges, saying in interviews that he showered and "horsed around" with boys but never sexually abused them.

Sandusky is set to appear in court on Tuesday to face more than 50 charges that accuse him of sexually abusing 10 boys over the span of 15 years. Investigators also have questioned whether Sandusky used charity funds to "groom" the boys with extensive gifts.

Michael L. Wyland, who advises nonprofits as a partner in the firm Sumption & Wyland, recently analyzed the charity in an essay that appeared online in The Nonprofit Quarterly.

Wyland said he'd never seen bylaws that identify the "founder" as a corporate officer and member of the board's executive committee. The arrangement meant that Jerry Sandusky's duties conflicted with the powers of the board's chairman.

Although it's not unusual for a founder to be the public face of an organization, Wyland said that board members have a legal responsibility to the charity, not the founder. Sandusky's extensive powers in the bylaws could have hindered such oversight.

Wyland noted that there's even a term in the nonprofit world for such situations: Founder's Syndrome.

The size of the Second Mile's board is also unusual. There are 36 people on the state board, plus more on regional boards. With that many people, "what tends to happen is the full board is not really able to exercise its responsibility. It's hard to have dialogue," Wyland said.

He also noted that Raykovitz, the CEO who resigned after Sandusky's arrest last month, is married to Genovese, the executive vice president who is no longer listed on the charity's website.

Wyland said that's a management conflict-of-interest, as Raykovitz would normally have been expected to review Genovese's performance and set her compensation. He noted that Raykovitz and Genovese also had formal oversight of contributions, solicitations and financial records.

The Second Mile has hired Lynne Abraham, who served as the top prosecutor in Philadelphia for nearly two decades, to help conduct an internal investigation to assess policies and make recommendations regarding its future.

Meanwhile, a new poll suggests that the public has mixed feelings about some people implicated in the scandal.

About half of Pennsylvanians surveyed for a poll released Friday support the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, although many say they still have a favorable opinion of him after the child sex-abuse scandal that erupted last month.

The poll conducted by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University found 52 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters surveyed supported the decision of the Penn State Board of Trustees to oust the longtime coach, with 43 percent opposing the move.

Paterno and school president Graham Spanier lost their jobs in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.

Spanier didn't fare so well in the poll. An overwhelming majority favored his dismissal -- 74 percent to 13 percent.