The lawyer for a South Carolina man who filed a lawsuit against Moose International Director General and CEO William Airey, claiming Airey sexually abused him as a boy, said his client decided to come forward after the recent sex abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“He felt an obligation to come forward to protect other kids,” said Ohio-based attorney Konrad Kircher, who represents Jason Peck, 44, of Fort Mill, S.C. Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.
Peck filed the suit Thursday in Franklin County court in Ohio against Airey, 71, who lives in Aurora. According to the lawsuit, Airey is accused of sexually abusing, molesting and exploiting Peck on two occasions when Peck was a minor. The abuse began in Ohio and continued elsewhere, including in New Orleans, in or about 1980 when Peck was 12, the suit states.
“They had lived in the same neighborhood,” Kircher said.
Moose International operates Mooseheart Child City and School, a community and school for children and teens in need. The Moose International headquarters is on the Mooseheart Child City and School campus near Batavia.
Peck chose not to report the abuse to police, Kircher said.
“He was a scared teenager, and when he got into adult life, he tried to put it behind him,” Kircher said.
He said Peck is willing to testify under oath.
“He feels that this is part of the healing process,” Kircher said. “He wants to be a good role model for other people suffering from abuse, that they no longer have to hide in the shadows.”
Moose International investigated Airey for sexual misconduct with children in 1996 and again in 2007, but took no action, the suit states. Airey is past president and former secretary of the Ohio State Moose Association, according to the lawsuit. The suit seeks more than $25,000 in financial damages as well as punitive damages.
Barbara Blaine, president of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on Moose International’s board of directors to suspend Airey until the case is resolved.
“It’s very hard for any child sex abuse victim to speak up,” Blaine said in a statement. “It’s especially hard when you are the first to accuse a powerful, high-profile individual. But we’re confident that Jason’s courage will help him heal and will help protect others.”
Moose International spokesman Kurt Wehrmeister said the organization did not have a response to SNAP’s statement. He said Airey is out of the office because he is celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife.
“We expect him back in the office Monday,” Wehrmeister said.
In a statement released Thursday, Wehrmeister said Airey will not be in contact with residential students at Mooseheart until further notice.
“Upon his return, the board will ascertain all facts relating to this situation, and determine what actions, if any, are necessary,” Wehrmeister said in the statement.