A letter from lobbyists to lawmakers providing insight into mediation between Ohio State and Strauss victims suing the university elicited a counter response from the university’s lawyer, raising questions about just how well confidential mediation is going.
The letter, sent to Ohio General Assembly lawmakers, from Connie Nolder, president of CRN Consulting Ltd., and Neil Clark, founder of and lobbyist at Grant Street Consultants, asks for lawmaker support for House Bill 249 — which would lift the statute of limitations for Strauss victims and allow them to sue Ohio State — and sheds light onto the ongoing mediation process between victims involved in lawsuits and the university.
Strauss was an Ohio State team doctor for 17 varsity sports and a physician at the Student Wellness Center from 1978-98, during which he abused at least 177 students and student-athletes, according to a report released in May following an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP. The investigation also found that Ohio State failed to act on Strauss’ abuse at the time.
Ohio State’s latest count, according to a university press release, includes nearly 1,500 instances of Strauss-related abuse.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
“OSU is not putting enough effort into this and I think the General Assembly needs to start responding to it,” Clark said in an interview.
According to the letter, no settlement was reached in either of the two mediations. The first mediation began July 15 on behalf of 200 victims, and the second occurred at the end of October on behalf of 350 victims. The letter claims a second day of mediation in October was canceled.
“OSU has displayed its true colors, and HB 249 is necessary for OSU to finally own up to and accept true accountability for enabling a predator to prey upon its students for nearly 20 years,” the letter states.
Michael Carpenter, special counsel for Ohio State, said the letter was “patently false.”
“A second day of mediation did occur at the federal court house, with the court appointed mediator and the mediation is continuing in progress,” Carpenter said.
Clark maintained that the second day did not exist.
“It’s not true,” he said. “And I won’t stand by them saying that it is true.”
The survivors are currently barred from taking action against Ohio State by the statute of limitations — a time limit for filing lawsuits — for this type of civil case. Proposed by Ohio State Republican Rep. Brett Hillyer of Tuscarawas County and a part of Holmes County, HB 249 is intended to give victims an opportunity for compensation by lifting the statute of limitations for Strauss victims.
“OSU uses the Statute of Limitations as a liability shield instead of accepting responsibility, and with the no progress being made, insists that it will do something at the secret mediation to stave off the Legislature from acting on HB 249. Enough already. The victims have suffered long enough, and the Legislature has been put off long enough. Time to force OSU to do the right thing since it will not do so as long as it can hide behind the Statute of Limitations,” the letter states.
The letter concludes by saying that not holding Ohio State accountable “sanctions the institutional betrayal” and its failure to protect students.
Carpenter said the university is committed to a fair resolution.
“Ohio State led the effort to investigate and expose the misdeeds of Richard Strauss decades ago, has implemented multiple additional safeguards, is actively participating in good faith in the mediation process,” he said.