“Victims of sexual abuse of any kind deserve to have their voices heard, and Missourians deserve to know if this misconduct has occurred in their communities,” Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley stated on August 23, when announcing an independent review of the Archdiocese of St. Louis regarding allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members.
That’s what Hawley – who is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican in the November 6 general election – said when the archbishop called. “By inviting this independent review, the archdiocese is demonstrating a willingness to be transparent and expose any potential wrongdoing,” Hawley stated.
Nicole Gorovsky, an attorney with clients who claim to have been sexually abused by priests in Missouri, said she and her clients did not receive the same warm welcome from Hawley when they asked him to investigate the church.
“I stood outside your office with survivors of childhood sexual abuse to ask you to organize an investigation into abuses within the Catholic Church in Missouri. We asked for an investigation like the one that occurred in Pennsylvania which revealed over 300 perpetrators and likely over 1,000 victims,” Gorovsky wrote to Hawley on August 24 in a letter that she shared with media.
“You responded that you did not have the power to do such an investigation.”
Indeed, Hawley claimed, in announcing his investigation, that he was empowered to do so by an invitation from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.
“In Missouri, jurisdiction for crimes of this nature lies with the elected local prosecutor,” Hawley stated. “However, because the archdiocese has agreed to voluntarily cooperate, the Attorney General’s Office will be able to conduct an independent review for the purpose of public transparency and accountability.”
Gorovsky said this “was somewhat of a half-truth,” given his office’s wide range of authority.
“The attorney general of the State of Missouri has the power to coordinate all kinds of law enforcement and prosecution efforts in the state,” Gorovsky wrote to Hawley.
“For example, you are currently running an advertisement on television claiming that you coordinated a state-wide audit on the backlog of untested rape kits in prosecutor’s offices in Missouri and are now coordinating an effort to get funding for this issue, and you are publicly pushing state prosecutors to be more aggressive on sexual assault cases. You can behave similarly here.”
Further, Gorovsky said that the way his investigation was initiated and will proceed is “exactly backward.”
“Archbishop Robert Carlson sent you a letter and held a press conference to say that he would voluntarily provide you with documents from his archdiocese. You accepted his offer. Unfortunately, this is exactly backward,” she wrote to Hawley.
“Allowing the accused wrongdoer to pick and choose what will be provided in an investigation of his wrongdoing is not an investigation at all. It is certainly not what I was asking for as I stood outside your office on Wednesday, and I do not believe it is what survivors of clergy abuse want either.”
Why did the archbishop pick Hawley to investigate the church? Hawley admits he has no authority to pursue charges. Did Archbishop Carlson pick Hawley because Carlson does not want the local prosecutor, Kim Gardner? (See, e.g., Greitens, Eric). Kim Gardner actually does have the authority to prosecute and if there are cover-ups, they occurred in the City of St. Louis.
If Gardner asked the Archdiocese to open ALL its records to her staff, what would the archbishop's response be?
This archbishop should have unusual sensitivity to these kinds of cover-up charges. Carlson testified in a deposition in a sex abuse case in Minnesota four years ago that he either did not know or could not remember whether it was a crime for an adult to have sex with a child. Carlson had been auxiliary bishop in St. Paul-Minneapolis in the 1980s and 1990s where he failed to turn in to the police credible allegations of priest sex abuse of children. He said, “I can’t remember” nearly 200 times in the deposition. The deposition is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3qlQnbIt4w.
The problem in Minnesota for Carlson was that the legislature extended or abolished the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children. Hawley has said that many of the Missouri cases would be barred by the Missouri’s statute of limitations. Would Hawley ask the legislature to extend or abolish the statute in cases involving children, including cover-up crimes? If Archbishop Carlson’s goal is to make Hawley look good, would Hawley oppose lifting the statute of limitations?
Gorovsky told Hawley that the criminal investigation of priests in Pennsylvania should have taught this to Hawley.
“The Pennsylvania grand jury specifically noted that in addition to horrific child abuse committed by priests within the church, the church hierarchy perpetrated a cover-up that was shameful, harmful and that went unpunished,” she wrote to Hawley.
“After hearing about such a mass cover-up do you believe that the church in Missouri will be forthcoming with you in a ‘voluntary’ investigation? If you do believe that as you have said in the press so far, does it make any sense to believe that? Do you want to reconsider?”
Gorovsky told Hawley it’s not too late to initiate a truly independent investigation of the archdiocese and implored him to do so: “I implore you, as a person who cares deeply about survivors of childhood sexual abuse, whether it be by priests, rabbis, imams, coaches, parents, or Mr. Smith down the street, do more for the children of Missouri and the people who have already been deeply hurt.”
As for Hawley’s assurance that the archdiocese is being “transparent,” Gorovsky had a different message for the archbishop.
“I am writing to ask, in the spirit of that promised transparency, that you release all attorneys and victims who have settlement agreements, or any other kind of ‘deal’ with the Archdiocese of St. Louis requiring that they remain silent about what happened to them, and how the archdiocese treated them, from these requirements,” she wrote to Carlson, also on August 24.
“I ask that you promise that you will not pursue damages, liquidated damages, defamation charges or any other actions against attorneys or victims who wish to tell the attorney general or anyone else about their experiences.”
As a parting shot, she wrote, “As you know, such an action would go a long way toward assuring the public that this truly is a ‘transparent’ investigation.”
The Archdiocese of St. Louis did not immediately respond to a request from The American for a response to Gorovsky’s challenge. This story will be updated with their response if we receive one.
Hawley’s press release announcing the investigation did not include any contact information for his office for victims to use, but the Missouri attorney general may be contacted at 573-751-3321 or www.ago.mo.gov.
Airport privatization pimped at ALEC conference
Travis Brown – president of Grow Missouri, Inc. which is consulting for the City of St. Louis on potentially privatizing its airport, was in New Orleans on August 10 giving a keynote address at the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference.
During his talk, ALEC tweeted out a picture of Brown onstage, where the screen behind him had the blown-up headline, “St. Louis airport privatization is closer to takeoff.” A quote from Mayor Lyda Krewson was also enlarged on the screen, stating, “We owe it to ourselves to consider what could be a very positive turning point for the future of our airport.”
The tweet included the headline, along with “getting govt out of the way helps our communities' and states' economies.”
The only comments were from several angry St. Louisans. One man wrote, “Not going to happen @ALEC_states the people of St. Louis will not let you privatize our airport. Even with @MayorSlay selling his soul as part of the deal #StLouisIsNotForSale #sorryRex.”
Someone else stated, “And where is this ‘unbiased’ approach you are supposed to be taking as a hired advisor?”
Grow Missouri, an organization funded by billionaire conservative financer Rex Sinquefield, was selected in January to be one of St. Louis city’s consultants in exploring privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Recently, St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger uncovered that Grow Missouri is paying up to $800,000 a month or more for the one to two years it might take to land a deal on the airport. The city will pay those costs back if it agrees to lease the airport.
Brown clearly wanted to promote nationally the role Grow Missouri is playing in the St. Louis deal with a conservative, right-wing audience.
Why? Because Sinquefield’s crew could make a ton of money off the St. Louis deal, and it’s basically an untapped business. If St. Louis privatized its airport, it would become the only privatized airport in the country – outside of the Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Brown wants city leaders like Krewson and former mayor Francis G. Slay – who is representing a Spanish firm with its eyes on the airport – to leave the conference and tell their cities’ residents that it’s no big deal to go forward with shady contracts – it’s been really shady, every step – with Sinquefield’s crew because the city doesn’t have to pay anything up front.
Messenger found that three different law firms are being paid between $425 and $575 an hour, with those costs rising as high as $800 an hour if the city closes the privatization deal. If it all goes through, the Grow Missouri contract will cost the city between $21 million and $40 million – which is about four times what another bidder had proposed during the bidding process, Messenger wrote.
City taxpayers will have to pay that all back if Grow Missouri succeeds.