Independent review for Citadel

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The Citadel’s decision not to hire an independent counsel to review its handling of the Louis “Skip” ReVille child molestation case is unwise and should be reversed. Only an independent investigation will advance a meaningful resolution of this case, and provide the assurance that the Military College of South Carolina is being completely forthcoming, no matter how painful that might be.

The Citadel had promised an independent investigation last November. Now the college says it will conduct an “in house” investigation, contending that its clearance by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) of criminal charges no longer requires an independent review of the administrative actions it took, or rather failed to take, in 2007 when credible allegations against ReVille first surfaced. We disagree.

The Citadel’s failure to inform responsible law enforcement authorities of a suspected child molester on the loose was a grievous lapse of judgment and responsibility, one striking in resemblance to that which subsequently has led to such grief at Penn State University. ReVille, a former Citadel summer camp counselor, pleaded guilty last month to molesting 23 boys there and elsewhere, and is serving a 50-year prison term.

Penn State took painfully public steps to provide accountability, and ultimately a resolution of its devastating scandal, by proceeding with an independent investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

The results, released last week, were scathing. They revealed a systemic unwillingness to deal with evidence of a child molester who happened to be an assistant coach in the university’s vaunted football program.

Consequently, Jerry Sandusky went unpunished for years, remained affiliated with the university, and continued his abuses there.

In our news account on Saturday, Libby Ralston, director emeritus of the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center, praised Penn State for taking the necessary steps to address the warped culture that allowed such a terrible situation to happen.

In contrast, Ms. Ralston criticized The Citadel’s decision, saying, “They have had multiple opportunities to do the same thing and they have not, in my view, shifted away from the position of protection of their own organization.”

That view is likely to be broadly shared with this latest decision.

A desire to protect the reputation of The Citadel is understandable. But the clumsy mishandling of the ReVille case has stained the reputation of a much-loved institution. Even its strongest adherents should recognize that an in-house probe will be viewed as a coat of whitewash.

The state attorney general’s office has offered to recommend outside investigators to undertake a Citadel probe. “But to date, we have not heard from them,” a spokesman for the attorney general said.

The Citadel should abandon its ill-advised retreat on an independent investigation in the Skip ReVille case.

Officials there should pick up the phone and call the attorney general, and follow up on his recommendations.