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PSU Collegian details suit against Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi board, adviser

Moderator: Lawsuit by Beta Theta Pi benefactor targets board, athletic trainer Tim Bream. More legal fallout from Tim Piazza tragedy.

Here is excerpt from The Collegian.

In his latest lawsuit, filed at the end of November, [benefactor Donald] Abbey targets the board members — William Cassidy, Kevin O’Brien, Eric Holmberg, Mark Lamm, Henry “Tim” Bream III, Marco Dellaria, Park Lenhart, George Remmey, William Torrance, Edward Hunt, and Garrett Vidak — for not only violating “fiduciary duties owed by them”, but also for “aiding and abetting certain of those fiduciary breaches.”

…In the lawsuit, Abbey describes those breaches to intentionally and/or recklessly enabling “rampant underage drinking and alcohol-related hazing by the Chapter and it’s Active Members,” interfering / refusing to cooperate with police and tampering evidence during a criminal investigation and engaging in “self-dealing” and wasting “corporate assets by causing AY Corp. to unnecessarily spend substantial funds on counsel fees.”

Cassidy, the president of the Board of Directors for the house, is being charged individually for not only breaching his fiduciary duties, but also for his alleged role in the deletion of the security video footage – footage later recovered by the FBI.

While Bream – who lived at the house and serving as an advisor to the Chapter and the Active Members, according to the timeline written in the lawsuit – is not being charged individually, the lawsuit states Bream was present at the house during the “alcohol-related hazing” on Feb. 2.

The lawsuit also charges the Board members with causing the corporation to “operate the House in an unlawful manner and for an unlawful purpose” and causing the corporation to breach its written contractual obligation to Abbey.

According to a timeline laid out in the lawsuit, Active Members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity “had a problem with the overconsumption of alcohol and alcohol-related hazing activity” at the fraternity house as early as the early 2000s. The lawsuit stated this overconsumption of alcohol included members that were under the legal drinking age.

The lawsuit also said the Active Members would also “routinely” vandalize the house after “consuming copious amounts of alcohol” even as the house was undergoing restorations with the $8.5 million donated by Abbey, as previously reported by The Daily Collegian. The AY Corp had to allegedly remind the members that their behavior was “unacceptable” and “needed to change,” but the behavior allegedly continued.

After the fraternity was suspended in 2009, the corporation wanted to “recolonize” the house with more responsible members, but also hire responsible adults to live in the house and monitor the members’ activities while making the house “dry” — a status which the members within the last few years allegedly wanted to “do away with.” The lawsuit also states that the members wanted to both drink at the house and hold fraternity-sanctioned events involving alcohol at the house, and while some board members “championed” the requested change in policy, Abbey was “vocal and unequivocal in his opposition.”

According to the lawsuit, Abbey was then replaced on the Board of Directors in Sept. 2016.

Charges Listed against Board Members related to Timothy Piazza Case:

William CassidyOne Count of Breach of Fiduciary Duty Related to Accrual of Significant Attorney’s Fees in Ongoing Criminal Investigations

The lawsuit alleges Cassidy was the one who directed members of the fraternity to “destroy and/or conceal evidence” related to the events on Feb. 2, including – but not limited to – deletion of the video footage later recovered by the FBI.

The corporation has paid approximately $137,000 in legal fees, and the lawsuit alleges at least a portion of those fees were from concern that Cassidy might personally be charged for his alleged participation in the “criminal activity connected to the events of Feb. 2, 2017” – specifically, allegedly tampering with and/or destroying evidence.

The lawsuit states that Cassidy breached his duties as a Board member by “wrongfully causing the corporation to expend substantial funds and incur substantial debt to protect his own personal rights and interests in ongoing criminal investigation.”


Board Members other than CassidyBreach of Fiduciary Duty Related to Accrual of Significant Attorney’s Fees in Ongoing Criminal Investigations

Authorizing the AY Corporation to incur substantial debt to protect Cassidy” personal rights and interests in ongoing criminal investigation.

Board Members other than Cassidy breached duties to “act with requisite care and avoid wasting company assets.”


All Board Members: Breach of Fiduciary Duty Related to Piazza’s Death;

Board members were “on notice and aware” that recent Active Members had been engaging in alcohol-related hazing activities at the house.

Board members “knowingly and intentionally” permitted the Chapter and its members to use the fraternity house to host events involving alcohol, despite the house being “dry.”

Board members breached fiduciary duties by “failing to implement or enforce policies that would have prevented the Chapter and its Active Members from engaging in alcohol-related hazing activities at the house on Feb. 2, 2017, which, in turn, resulted in Piazza’s death.”

AY Corporation was harmed and “will suffer harm” in the future including the filing and pursuit of civil claims from the AY Corp. stemming from Piazza’s death

 

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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