Home > Uncategorized > Grand Jury Report – Should Coach Paterno Have Resigned? What Is The Standard?

Grand Jury Report – Should Coach Paterno Have Resigned? What Is The Standard?

November 9, 2011

From the Washington Post, the following is a link to the Grand Jury report of its investigation of Jerry Sandusky,  Click Here.

As you may have heard, Coach Joe Paterno resigned today. The Grand Jury report is sparse as to Coach Paterno’s involvement–he reported to his superior an incident that had been reported to him. The question arises, for people who find themselves in a situation that is similar to Coach Paterno’s position, i.e., they become aware of information indicating that wrongful conduct has occurred, and that depending on the particular circumstances of what actually did occur the wrongful conduct either was or might have been in violation of the law, assuming that the person in Coach Paterno’s position at least handles the situation in compliance with his legal reporting responsibilities, what else, if anything, should the person do, and how far further up the ladder, if at all, should the person in Coach Paterno’s position report the conduct, and to what extent, if any, should he then also follow-up on developments?

Again, assuming that the person at least satisfied his or her legal responsibilities, perhaps the answer in part also depends on the position or stature of the person in Coach Paterno’s position. Although Coach Paterno reported to his superior, Coach Paterno held a position of tremendous stature at the University. But I am not sure that is a fair criterion. For example, would it be deemed or viewed that because of his stature Coach Paterno had a higher reporting and/or follow-up responsibility than would a lower-level employee who had been told the information that Coach Paterno had been told? If that lower-level employee had satisfied his or her legal responsibilities and then had also reported the information to Coach Paterno’s superior, would that employee then be expected to also do more? It can be a tough call, and one that will ultimately be judged in hindsight. Is it also perhaps unfair to Coach Paterno that at least indirectly his conduct might be viewed not based just on what he knew, but also in light of other alleged conduct about which he apparently was not aware.

In any event, as there is a natural tendency to judge actions and inactions in hindsight, and there is a need by higher-ups to protect the organization, not appear to condone wrongful conduct, and to take actions that will also reflect well on and protect their reputations, the best advised course of action for someone in Coach Paterno’s position, again assuming that he satisfied all legal requirements, is CYA–after considering the seriousness of the allegations and your position of stature or ability or authority to make things happen, make sure that you have done everything necessary so that someone looking at your actions in hindsight would conclude that you took all reasonable actions that were necessary to report to others to investigate the incident and protect the victim and potential other victims, and to see that higher-ups were then taking the actions necessary to handle the situation. This would include reporting and following up in writing which apparently was not done in this case. The Grand Jury report is significantly based on he said, she said. If you are exercising CYA, why leave want you did and what you reported to guess work or he said, she said?

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