In today’s post, I’m going to report for the first time on information on the Penn State Inquiry Committee from an inside source (PS) who was familiar with the activities of the Inquiry Committee. PS agreed that the Inquiry Committee didn’t do their job, but pointed me to different reasons than those discussed in an earlier post on the matter.
PS’s information requires interpretation, but left me convinced that William Easterling, who was said by the Inquiry Committee report to have “recused” himself from the inquiry, had continued to exert influence on the inquiry and, indeed, it was his influence that resulted in the Inquiry Committee’s failure to contact targets of the Climategate team, including, most notably me.
When I was first contacted by PS, I asked him/her why the Inquiry Committee had neglected to contact me. The Inquiry Committee’s eventual report stated that, while they had received many complaints, the complaints were not directly reducible to allegations under Penn State academic misconduct policies. As both a target and someone intimately familiar with the material, I was an obvious resource. The failure of the Inquiry Committee to contact me was a startling omission. Why had this happened?
You were not contacted for a reason. Recuse but not excuse!
I didn’t understand what he/she was saying at all, answering as follows:
I don’t understand your comment below. “recuse” applies to a judge, not to someone giving evidence.
Reread the Inquiry Report for context for “recuse”.
I didn’t figure out this clue at the time and responded impatiently:
I doubt that you would change my mind that your inquiry didn’t do its job. Not for the reasons that many readers presume – but because the inquiry purported to assume tasks of the investigation phase that should not be done in an inquiry stage, a point that I made in posts last year – see http://www.climateaudit.info/tag/penn-state. Procedurally, the process was totally botched. It’s too bad that you didn’t carry out the job that you were supposed to do, as it might well have somewhat cleared the air.
The final comment was an agreement that the Inquiry Committee hadn’t done its assigned job, but said that I had got to the right conclusion based on an incorrect analysis:
You have reached the right conclusion though based on incorrect assumptions.
In the wake of the Penn State scandal, I sent this correspondence to someone else who immediately solved the riddle. The word “recuse” occurs on one occasion in the Inquiry Committee report:
At this meeting [Nov 24, 2009], all were informed of the situation and of the decision to respond to the matter with an inquiry under RA-10. Dr. Pell then discussed the responsibilities that each individual would be expected to have according to policy. At this time, Dean Easterling recused himself from the inquiry for personal reasons.
While Easterling’s reasons were not stated in the report, the existence of some sort of conflict is evidenced by the mere fact that Easterling felt obliged to declare that he “recused” himself. In the subsequent Investigation Committee report in June 2010 (as a reader observes), Easterling’s supposed “recusal” is specifically attributed to a “conflict of interest” (though the Investigation Committee having noted Easterling’s conflict of interest, then inconsistently relied on Easterling to provide them with the names of scientists critical of Mann’s work, with Easterling apparently omitting the most obvious names.)
“Recuse but not excuse”.
My interpretation of this oracle is that, despite a conflict that obliged Easterling to declare that he had “recused” himself, Easterling, in fact, continue to influence the proceedings and was responsible, directly or indirectly, for the Inquiry Committee’s decision not to contact critics, including, most obviously, me. Instead, they used Gerry North and Donald Kennedy as experts on the emails, even though North admitted that he had not read the emails out of “professional courtesy”.
That the Penn State Inquiry Committee had not done its prescribed job was evident to me as soon as I read the report – for the reasons that I reported at the time. However, PS pointed to a reason that I had not contemplated: that despite his supposed “recusal”, Easterling continued to exert influence on the Inquiry Committee, including its decision not to contact critics.
Whether my specific interpretation of the events surrounding the Inquiry Committee is now correct, my conclusion that the Inquiry Committee had not done its assigned job was confirmed:
You have reached the right conclusion
As I had noted at the time, the procedural advice given to the Inquiry Committee seemed highly questionable. Wendell Courtney, counsel to the Inquiry Committee, has, of course, become prominent in the wake of his role in the Penn State scandal.