COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State University asked a judge Wednesday for permission to publicly share information about a confidential state medical board investigation involving the team doctor accused of decades-old sexual misconduct against more than 150 former students.
The Perkins Coie law firm has spent a year investigating the men’s allegations against Richard Strauss for Ohio State, and its findings are expected soon. The school plans to release that report, which it said will reference information provided by former OSU employees during the 1996 medical board investigation.
In asking for permission to make some information public, the university said identifying details about former patients and witnesses not associated with Ohio State would be redacted.
Many of the accusers speaking publicly say they were groped during physical exams . The allegations span 1979 to 1997 and involve students in at least 16 sports, plus Strauss’ work at the student health center and his off-campus clinic .
Strauss killed himself in 2005. His family has said they were shocked at the allegations raised last year, but no one has publicly defended him.
Alumni say they complained as far back as the late 1970s, but employment records released by the university reflect no major concerns about Strauss. The medical board never disciplined him and has refused to publicly disclose any details of the old investigation, citing confidentiality rules.
In a letter last month to the medical board, a different law firm representing Ohio State in the matter argued limited details from that investigation need to be publicly shared in the upcoming report, so there is no question about the thoroughness and integrity of the current investigation .
“The individuals who have come forward to provide first-hand accounts of Dr. Strauss’ conduct deserve no less, and the public rightfully expects such transparency from a public institution,” wrote Kathleen Trafford of the Porter Wright law firm.
Some potentially relevant witnesses have died, refused to cooperate, or been unable to recall events from so long ago, so the information the medical board shared with the university in confidence about the 1996 investigation has been “invaluable” in determining what Ohio State and its leaders knew about Strauss’ behavior while he worked there between 1978 and 1998, Trafford wrote.
But the medical board maintains that the information should remain confidential. Its lawyer, Kimberly Anderson, told Trafford that the confidentiality requirements didn’t end with Strauss’ death and can’t be waived by Ohio State because it didn’t initially file a complaint with the board about him. Concerns about Strauss came to the board’s attention while it was investigating another university employee back then, Anderson wrote.
Ohio State’s request Wednesday was filed with a federal judge overseeing two lawsuits against the school by scores of Strauss’ accusers.
Stephen Estey, a lawyer for plaintiffs in one case, said they want transparency from the report but don’t want the issue to delay release of the law firm’s findings. Because the medical board investigation was shared with Ohio State under a legal exemption but not with him or the other plaintiffs’ lawyers, Estey said it’s tough for him to comment on the university’s request.
“It’s just hard when we don’t know what we’re dealing with,” Estey said.
Adele Kimmel, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the other case, called Ohio State’s request a welcome step. She said it’s critical that the law firm’s report be “fully transparent and forthcoming and not a tool crafted in the best interests of the university’s litigation strategy.”