Fairfield University releases internal review regarding Project Pierre Toussaint


Fairfield today released the findings of an independent investigation of the University's relationship with the Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT) in Haiti. The University commissioned the investigation last fall after the indictment of Doug Perlitz '92, founder of the PPT.

The results of the review, conducted by Day Pitney LLP, were presented at a campus forum today. The investigation found that University officials had no knowledge of sex abuse allegations against Perlitz prior to May 2008.

According to Day Pitney's findings, former University chaplain Paul Carrier, S.J., was the primary driver of the University's charitable efforts on behalf of the PPT, as chairman of the Board of Directors for The Haiti Fund. From fiscal years 1997 to 2008, approximately $700,000 in donations was collected by the University, primarily during Mass at the Egan Chapel, for the benefit of the PPT.

The report also disclosed that Fairfield University had no legal or fiduciary relationship with Perlitz, PPT, and The Haiti Fund. The Haiti Fund, the fundraising arm of PPT, reported charitable donations of approximately $3.5 million from 2001 through 2008. During the same period, Fairfield University directly contributed $51,000 in donations to The Haiti Fund in support of the PPT.

The report concluded that the internal controls for tracking and monitoring donations made at the Egan Chapel needed to be strengthened and offered recommendations to accomplish this goal. Working with a special task force and the University's auditors, Fairfield has taken steps to ensure that Day Pitney's recommendations are implemented and maintained.

"As the weekly contributions at the 11 a.m. Mass increased in support of Fr. Carrier's work with the PPT, the financial controls in Campus Ministry didn't keep up," said University Board Chairman Paul J. Huston. "While the investigation uncovered no specific wrongdoing, insufficient support documentation and a lack of segregation of duties were cited as control deficiencies. In the future, charitable donations collected on behalf of outside organizations will immediately be distributed directly to the organization."

"Fairfield University clearly was supportive of the good works and ideals that created Project Pierre Toussaint," Huston stated. "While the Board of Trustees is pleased that the independent investigation found no evidence of University knowledge or involvement with the allegations of sexual abuse, we are committed to finding a way to help re-open the facility in Cap Haitien."

University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., said the results further strengthen the school's resolve to live according to the Jesuit values that are the cornerstone of the University's identity.

"Reaching out to the poor and underserved defines who we are," he said. "We will continue to support charities that help the underprivileged and encourage our University community to join these efforts."

He said the University helps more than 24 charities, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen, Caroline House, Operation Hope, and the Christian Appalachian Project. On average, the University gives between $500 and $5,000 to individual organizations annually or biannually.

"We are fortunate to have Fr. Gerry Blaszczak as our new University chaplain," Fr. von Arx added. "He has already put into motion many ways for the community to be engaged in dialogue and service towards the common good. This is an essential part of who we are as a Jesuit and Catholic university, and we will continue our commitment to help those in need."

Fr. von Arx has reached out to the chairman and Board members of The Haiti Fund, to facilitate discussions with charitable organizations to help re-open and re-use the shuttered PPT facilities.

Fairfield University is also working with the Business Council of Fairfield County to explore collaborative efforts to help rebuild Haiti. In addition, Fairfield's chapter of the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network collaborated with students and several offices across campus to organize a forum to discuss ways the campus community can address the humanitarian crisis in Haiti; and students started a "Fairfield for Haiti" Facebook page to aid the relief efforts. Additional plans are being considered.

View the Summary Report of Investigation (PDF)

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Posted on February 17, 2010