Citadel does plan outside probe

FILE PHOTO

Citadel President John Rosa says the school never wavered from its plan to hire an independent investigator to review its handling of a complaint about child molester Louis “Skip” ReVille.

The Citadel plans to investigate and to publicly release the report, he said.

Rosa’s statement contradicts a July 14 story in The Post and Courier that said the school had reversed an earlier pledge to seek a transparent, third-party review of its actions and policies in connection with ReVille. That report was based on an interview with Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke.

Cooke had told The Post and Courier that The Citadel had no plans in the works to go forward with an outside review, after an April probe by the State Law Enforcement Division concluded that there was no criminal wrongdoing on The Citadel’s part.

On Friday, Cooke said he needed to clarify his statement. Cooke said that while the investigation was not yet under way when he spoke to the reporter, it was planned.

Officials did not inform the newspaper until Friday about an ongoing plan to hire the investigator, six days after the original story was published.

“There was no intentional delay,” Rosa said. “We were trying to get the message right.”

He also said the review always has been a priority. “I have, from Day One, said we will do an independent investigation. We have never said or even thought about not doing an independent review. That was just not in the cards.”

However, Rosa said The Citadel couldn’t launch an independent review until the second of two SLED investigations was complete.

That will happen soon, he said, and the military college’s Board of Visitors will begin discussing independent review firms and individual candidates at an Aug. 1 meeting.

At issue in The Citadel case is the decision-making process that occurred in 2007 after a teen accused ReVille of watching porn and masturbating with young boys at The Citadel’s summer camp five years earlier.

The school closed the matter without notifying police following an internal investigation that yielded no action.

ReVille, a Citadel graduate and one of the camp’s counselors, went on to molest a number of children. He is now serving a 50-year prison term after he pleaded guilty last month to molesting 23 boys in the greater Charleston area.

Rosa said he remains troubled by ReVille’s actions. “I think about it every night,” he said. “I can’t imagine the impact on the victims and their families.”

He said he finds the incidents especially disturbing when he spends time with his grandsons, who are 3 and 7 years old. “It just tears me up,” he said.

Rosa said he wants the independent review to be completed as soon as possible, and it will answer “key critical questions,” such as:

what Rosa was told in 2007 about the teen’s accusations against ReVille.

what the Board of Visitors was told about those accusations.

why the school didn’t report the incident to law enforcement officials.

whether the school put its reputation over the safety of children.

The first SLED investigation into whether the school failed to report child abuse was resolved in April, when SLED found no criminal wrongdoing on The Citadel’s part, Rosa said.

SLED also is investigating issues concerning ReVille’s victims who attended The Citadel’s summer camp, he said. SLED has sequestered information for that investigation, without which a thorough, independent review couldn’t be conducted, Rosa said.

The second SLED investigation is wrapping up, and The Citadel’s independent review will get under way as soon as it’s complete. “I was frustrated when we couldn’t start in January,” Rosa said.

“We want it all to come out,” he said. “In my entire career, I have always had a reputation of calling it as I see it. It’s never been my nature to cover something up.”

Rosa does have such a reputation.

He is the man the Pentagon called upon in 2003 to clean up a sexual assault scandal as superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

By the time Rosa took the reins at The Citadel in January 2006, he was an expert on sexual assault and harassment, taking on the issues as a professional and personal mission.

Less than a year after arriving at the military college, Rosa publicly released the results of a cadet survey that found that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 25 men reported being sexually assaulted since enrolling at The Citadel.

The release was a bold and transparent action for the traditionally insular military college, and uncommon among nonmilitary colleges and universities in the United States.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.