Wendell Courtney’s Last Day

Last year, I reported that the “Mann Inquiry Committee has probably made about as many procedural errors as it’s possible to make in the compass of a short report”, also noting that not all of them were to “Mann’s benefit”. Wendell Courtney, much in the news this week, advised the Inquiry Committee.

In my earlier post, I was extremely critical of the legal advice that had permitted the Inquiry Committee to make so many procedural errors.

Given the publicity that this case has attracted and will continue to attract, you’d have that the university would have obtained the best possible professional advice on how to handle an inquiry and investigation from the Office of Research Integrity (or their equivalent at NSF). Instead, like Gerry North, they seem to have decided to “wing it” – an unfortunate decision that will do nothing except prolong the melodrama.

Most egregiously, the Inquiry Committee showed almost total disdain for the terms of reference for an inquiry committee, which according to Office of Research Integrity Guidelines, is charged only with determining whether there is a prima facie basis for an investigation and which are not supposed to usurp the duties of an investigation committee. ORI policies state (and see contemporary CA post for a more detailed review):

In general, absent full admissions, inquiries should not be used to make findings on whether research misconduct in fact occurred.

The Inquiry Committee did exactly the opposite. It disregarded Office of Research Integrity Procedures, taking no evidence from critics, while considering defence explanations that should properly have been presented to a properly constituted and resourced investigation committee. The Inquiry Committee deep-sixed the major issues, resulting in the consternation expressed by Lindzen to the later investigation committee when he learned that they weren’t actually investigating the most controversial Climategate issues (e.g. the trick to hide the decline, the email deletion enterprise or longstanding questions about the failure to report adverse verification statistics.)

The total disregard of the Inquiry Committee for required procedures certainly raised questions in my mind about the competence of Penn State counsel, as is clear from earlier post. From the report of the Inquiry Committee, we know that University counsel, Wendell Courtney, attended the January 26, 2010 meeting of the inquiry committee:

On January 26, 2010, Dr. Foley convened the inquiry committee along with University counsel, Mr. Wendell Courtney, Esq. in case issues of procedure arose.

Courtney is very much in the news over the present Penn State scandal, particularly over his apparent failure to notify Second Mile about investigation information about Sandusky obtained in his capacity as counsel to Penn State. Courtney’s role, if any, in concealing the Sandusky scandal is going to be closely examined. Courtney’s denial of any awareness was given little credence by a spokesman for the Attorney General:

He [Courtney] said he did not begin to represent The Second Mile until early 2009 and withdrew as the organization’s counsel on Monday, after two top Penn State officials were charged with perjury in connection with allegations that Mr. Sandusky sexually abused eight children.

Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for Attorney General Linda Kelly, dismissed Mr. Courtney’s claim.

“It’s clear from the findings of the grand jury that Mr. Courtney had direct dealings with both Penn State and The Second Mile and he had knowledge and was aware of the 1998 incident,” he said.

The story goes on to say that Courtney was replaced last year as general counsel when Penn State appointed an in house general counsel:

The university replaced Courtney and McQuaide Blasko as general counsel last year when it hired former Duane Morris partner Cynthia Baldwin—who served as a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 2006 to 2008—as its first in-house general counsel

Baldwin’s appointment was announced on January 26, 2010, the very date on which Courtney was counseling the Mann Inquiry Committee on its botched procedure.

Courtney’s failure to ensure that the Inquiry Committee observed required protocols obviously appears in a new light given what we now know of his handling of other situations that might place Penn State in a bad light.


37 Comments

  1. justbeau
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 11:12 AM | Permalink

    It is interesting how unfunny scandals or amusing embarrassments seem to follow the Hockey Team, around the globe.
    Randy Pauchauri with his soft-core novel-writing.
    News of the World Wallis allegedly involved in bribing Scotland Yard and helping the University of East Anglia hide “hide the decline.”
    Dr. Hansen having an office in the same building above the deli pictured in the television farce, Seinfeld, with which Larry David was involved.
    Mr. David’s involvement (?) in supporting An Inconvenient Truth.
    And now very unpleasant matters coming to light from Penn State, with figures who may have been involved in two internal investigations, both of which seem to have been unsuccessful in finding the truth.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

      IIRC Larry David was fined by EPA for filling a wetland on their property, and then they filled it again when they thought no one was looking. Not that I approve of the heavy handed EPA “wetland” issue on small private lots (calling a puddle a wetland) but the irony is great.

      • W F Lenihan
        Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

        The EPA has no statutory authorization to regulate wetlands. This is ceded to the US Corps of Engineers pursuant to the Rivers and Harbors Act.

        The EPA’s attempt to regulate wetlands is simply another power grab by administative fiat.

  2. Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 11:30 AM | Permalink

    Agree with justbeau. It would be funny if it wasn’t so darned serious.

    • justbeau
      Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

      Richard, there seem two kinds of problems that the Team encounters. One is slap-stick: the self-parody of Randy P. writing real novels (versus the IPCC’s faux science). Jim Hansen and Gavin employing their intellects just a few floors above George and Kramer. Comic maestro Larry David helping An Inconvenient Truth. These things seem part of the Human Comedy, to be enjoyed.
      Second, the Team sometimes encounters unpleasant problems: reliance on phone tapping Scotland Yard bribers. Now, a sad tale from Pennsylvania that contains no leavening of humor.

      • kim
        Posted Nov 19, 2011 at 5:46 AM | Permalink

        One irony I note are the public and private consequences of these two cover-ups, and the scales of the consequences. I leave no shred of pity for the private victims of one cover-up, so what do I have left for the public victims of the other?
        ============

  3. thisisnotgoodtogo
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    An unnamed Penn State source is reported to have stated: “This is a concerted well-organized and very well funded campaign to attack football coaching – not just the coaching, but the coaches themselves”

    • stan
      Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

      Funding no doubt comes from fossil fuel companies.

      • TerryS
        Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

        Fossil fuel companies don’t have a bone in this fight.
        The hockey team on the other hand….

        • thisisnotgoodtogo
          Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

          Unfortunate choice of wording.

        • sue
          Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

          Talk about unfortunate wording…
          “We will all miss Cynthia, will look for ways to continue to work with her and wish her much success as she no doubt becomes to PSU’s legal operations what (coach) Joe Paterno has become to PSU’s football operations,” Duane Morris Chairman John Soroko said in a firm-wide statement provided to the Pittsburgh Business Times Monday.

          http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2010/01/25/daily3.html

        • thisisnotgoodtogo
          Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

          Now THAT was unfortunate wording for a news release meant to grease the skids for easy entry to her new position.

        • thisisnotgoodtogo
          Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Permalink

          I’m trying to figure out when the insiders knew this was coming.
          That statement would seem to indicate that even as of Monday, they did not think Joe P would be taking a fall.

        • thisisnotgoodtogo
          Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 9:16 PM | Permalink

          I didn’t notice the date on that article. What a difference this year made, for Penn State.

        • P. Solar
          Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

          “meant to grease the [s]kids for easy entry ”

          What’s this, the unfortunate wording competition?!

          You should maybe offer your services to PSU as press officer.

          All this makes one wonder who else must have known about this festering affair being swept under the carpet. If the prosecutor on the case disappeared in what mysteriously looks like a hit there was more to this.

          I can see their feeble protestations about “private” emails and academic freedom may be less well received next time they’re in court.

          They’re fighting tooth an nail not to hand over full records from the email server as the law would normally require. Perhaps in amongst those tens of thousands of emails there may be “private” comments about affairs more serious than file deletion.

          Perhaps careless comments about a brewing scandal that may reveal who know what and when.

          I expect the shock-waves from this one may be reverberating for a long time.

        • Steve Garcia
          Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

          It sounded like a relevant snark to me.

  4. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    An unnamed Penn State source is reported to have stated: “This is a concerted well-organized and very well funded campaign to attack football coaching – not just the coaching, but the coaches themselves”

    We have a winner!

    w.

  5. Martin A
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 4:37 PM | Permalink

    “Mr. Wendell Courtney, Esq”

    “Mister” or “Esquire”. But not both.

    • drunkenson
      Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 6:02 PM | Permalink

      One should not assume that the US usage of Esq. is the same as the UK. In the US you will find it being used by female lawyers.

      Quite how the mark of a gentleman comes to be used by lawyers escapes me.

      • Speed
        Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

        It’s because they can’t be called “Doctor Jones” and “Lawyer Jones” sounds silly.

      • Martin A
        Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 3:52 PM | Permalink

        All the same, Emily Post says: “If using Esquire, do not use Ms. or Mr.”

        • Speed
          Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 7:13 PM | Permalink

          Same same with Doctor. Doctor Jones MD is a no-no but I see it a lot, especially in ads.

        • Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 10:49 PM | Permalink

          Same with same same!

  6. DocMartyn
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Permalink

    The FT has reported that Penn State is going to have its credit rating cut from Aa1 to A.

    Penn State has 80,000 students, operating revenues of $4.6 billion and debts of $1 billion.

    Penn State football’s profit was $53.2 million last year.

    So football paid the bonds off.

  7. gnomish
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

    in america, ‘Esq.’ stands for ‘esquirrel’ and is a title of imaginary aristocracy. also required for its use is a mascara moustache.
    then the person goes out trick or treating.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

    The Lasaga appeal is an interesting read – see here as it shows how quickly the Yale counsel turned matters over to the police:

    On October 30, Gluhosky notified his direct supervisor, Professor Ron Smith, that he believed the defendant was downloading child pornography.   Smith instructed him to continue monitoring the defendant’s computer activity.   On November 2, Gluhosky and Smith met again and decided to contact Yale legal counsel, who referred Smith to Russell Kozak, a lieutenant with the Yale University police department, and Daniel Rainville, a detective with the Yale University police department.   Smith informed the officers of what Gluhosky had told him regarding the defendant’s computer activity.   On November 3, Gluhosky met Kozak and Rainville at the Yale police department and told them that he believed that the defendant had used his computer to acquire child pornography.

    Later on November 3, they contacted the FBI and met with an FBI agent, who involved a USDA the next day. Search warrants were obtained leading to discovery of Lasaga’s pedophilia.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Nov 12, 2011 at 10:51 PM | Permalink

      Antonio Lasaga, Geokinetics, State College PA is a joint presenter at the October 2011 GSA meeting:

      P7. Earth’s Early Atmosphere and Surface Environment
      Robert O. Pepin and George H. Shaw, Presiding
      Paper # Start Time
      8:00 AM Introductory Remarks
      228-1 8:05 AM EVIDENCE AND ARGUMENTS FOR EARLY METHANE AND AMMONIA IN EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE, AND AN ORGANIC-COMPOUND-RICH EARLY OCEAN: SHAW, George H., Geology, Union College, Union College, Schenectady, NY 12308, shawg@union.edu
      228-2 8:55 AM ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION ON THE HADEAN/EARLY ARCHEAN EARTH: THE IMPORTANCE OF CO: KASTING, James F., Penn State, 443 Deike, University Park, PA 16802, jfk4@psu.edu
      9:45 AM Break
      228-3 10:00 AM WAITING FOR O2: THE ROLE OF HYDROGEN ESCAPE IN THE OXIDATION OF EARTH: ZAHNLE, Kevin, NASA, Ames Research Center, Mail Stop 245-3, By the Runway, Moffett Field, CA 94035, Kevin.J.Zahnle@NASA.gov
      228-4 10:50 AM EVIDENCE FOR THE FULLY-OXYGENATED OCEANS AND ATMOSPHERE DURING THE ARCHEAN EON: OHMOTO, Hiroshi, NASA Astrobiology Institute and Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 435 Deike Bldg, University Park, PA 16803, hqo@psu.edu, LASAGA, Antonio C., Geokinetics, State College, PA 16801, WATANABE, Yumiko, NASA Astrobiology Institute and Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 434 Deike Bldg, University Park, PA 16802, and YAMAGUCHI, Kosei E., Department of Chemistry, Toho University, 2-2-1 Miyama, Funabashi, Chiba, 274-8510, Japan

      He’s also listed as contributor to NASA astobiology.

      • sue
        Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

        Mr. McIntyre, do you have a link for this info? Has he been released from prison? Why is he associated with Penn State for this event and why does he have an email address with Yale?

        • Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 10:22 PM | Permalink

          Lasaga was a ‘superstar’ professor at Penn State, see: http://articles.courant.com/2000-05-19/news/0005191737_1_child-pornography-antonio-lasaga-polygraph-test

          “‘In 1981, when Lasaga was a professor at Pennsylvania State University, College Park, Pa., police charged him with inappropriately touching a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy in a local pool.’”

          ““I consider Tony Lasaga a superstar,” said Hubert Barnes, a Penn State professor who ticked off a series of environmental issues that Lasaga’s research had advanced”

        • sue
          Posted Nov 14, 2011 at 2:10 AM | Permalink

          I found the link that Steve referred to here: http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2011AM/finalprogram/abstract_193642.htm
          Interesting article you linked to,thanks. So Sandusky started his foundation in 1977, Lasaga is charged in 1981 in Pa, gets a pass, then moves to Yale and finally arrested in 1998. His peers at sentencing say he’s so brilliant that his behavior shouldn’t be punished harshly, then works with the man from prison. We now have Sandusky 34 years after starting his foundation arrested on the same charges. Pardon me while I puke…(sorry) Does anyone know the history of this foundation and how long Courtney has been involved?

  9. Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 5:40 AM | Permalink

    My question is whether Penn State will grasp the nettle of its complete failure at corporate governance and properly investigate Mann?

    It might take a while – it only took years before the SEC managed to reprimand (and in one case recommend dismissal) after completely failing to stop Bernie Madoff.

    Only when Penn State becomes a full laughing stock and its financial base is under threat. That’s my guess.

  10. observa
    Posted Nov 13, 2011 at 6:47 AM | Permalink

    No no you people.. look over here.. it’s another Unicorn!

    http://www.news.com.au/world/brace-for-weather-extremes-un-panel/comments-e6frfkyi-1226193834641

  11. Joltinjoe
    Posted Nov 14, 2011 at 3:03 AM | Permalink

    If there is a distinction between a lawyer and an attorney it is this: A lawyer is one who graduated from a law school. An attorney is one who has passed the bar and is sworn in as an officer of the court. Esquire is really just an unnessary addendum.

  12. thisisnotgoodtogo
    Posted Nov 14, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    Penn State and moving on

    http://www.youtube.com/user/PennState#p/c/C50360333FEAEC53

    “Although we can’t go back to “Business As Usual”

    Ahem….one would have to leave, in order to return.

  13. dougieh
    Posted Nov 14, 2011 at 6:50 PM | Permalink

    from “thisisnotgoodtogo” link above, PENN ethics commitments to students will soon be on the case.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/PennState#p/c/C50360333FEAEC53/0/zvNK69-dnN4

    2:10 discusses case studies where there is a big uproar about them etc.. to give students hands on practice.
    wonder what other case studies they have covered in the past?

  14. G stocker
    Posted Nov 15, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

    I don’t have the slightest idea of what most of your site is trying to advance. I’m going to guess that you are not in favor of the idea that man made global warming is a legitimate scientific theory and that proponents are likely more concerned about gov’t grants than the truth. I was a business major at PSU and currently own and operate a business in State College. I took Chem 13 as an undergrad, probably the bravest thing I ever did other than getting married but I retain an interest in science and nature. I know Dr. Charles Hossler, now retired from PSU, and have enjoyed conversations with him about the politics of man made global warming and the money involved. I also know Wendell Courtney, attorney for PSU and all the actors in the Sandusky debacle. So, now you know a little of me what are your motives in unscientific language. Is Dr. Mann bending the truth? Do you know Dr. Roy Spencer? I’ve read one of his books and find it interesting. I’m just a curious climate junky. Have a good day.

    • Charlie Hart
      Posted Nov 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

      This site is mostly about the robust use of statistical analyses. Too often in climate science use the incorrect statistical test based on the data type. They also often do not disclose the clode that they used to do there statistical analyses.

      Steve is not “for” or “against” “man made global warming”.

      Steve is for open and robust science.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] McIntyre of Climate Audit has thoughts here and here. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="What else has Penn State whitewashed?"; [...]

  2. [...] According to the grand jury docs, irresponsible campus police who were supposed to investigate the allegations that he sodomized children since a shower incident took place on campus in 1998 but were probably deterred by then University and Second Mile counsel Wendell Courtney. [...]

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