Breaking News
More () »

Another resignation & a new report over state's botched handling of constitutional amendment to help child sex abuse victims

The Inspector General's report details mistakes made by the state & recommendations to keep it from happening again. Finds mistake was systemic, not intentional

Pennsylvania's Inspector General has released a report detailing the mistakes that led to the state's bungled management of a constitutional amendment that was meant to help survivors of child sex abuse. The report blames the mistake on systemic issues and the review found no evidence of intentional wrongdoing.

HB963 was not advertised by the state so it was unable to be voted on in the election, forcing survivors to go back to square one to get the amendment passed that would have granted them a larger window of time to sue their predators.

Previously Pennsylvania's Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar submitted her resignation following the error. On Wednesday, it was announced that the Legislative Director, Victor Wills, also submitted a resignation. However the state would not say why that resignation was submitted or if it was related to the report as they do not comment on 'personnel matters.'

Read the entire Inspector General's report here.

Per the Inspector General's review, "The OSIG’s review found no evidence that DOS’ failure to advertise the wording of HB 963 was deliberate or the result of intentional malfeasance. Rather, the OSIG found that a combination of internal systemic failures within DOS led to its crucial error."

The OSIG (Office of Inspector General) also found that the Department of State lacked executive oversight, written policies and procedures, proper staff training, and consistent communication of the process to handle the advertising of the proposed constitution amendment. 

Specifically, the OSIG found: 

• DOS had no executive oversight of the proposed Constitutional Amendment process

• Aside from intake and notification processes, DOS had no written policies, procedures, or guidelines concerning the internal tracking or handling of proposed Constitutional Amendments

• DOS failed to properly train staff on how to differentiate and handle Constitutional Amendments

•  Current DOS legislative staff (including its Director) 9 were unclear of the Legislative Affairs Office’s responsibilities concerning its role in monitoring Constitutional Amendments with no direct impact on DOS operations; and 

• Despite annual Pennsylvania Legislative Services (PLS) subscription costs and tracking of HB 963, DOS legislative staff used PLS infrequently.  

“On behalf of the Department of State, I apologize to the victims of abuse for the additional pain and distress we have caused them,” said Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid. “We are committed to ensuring such a failing will never happen again.”


The Department of State said it has already implemented several changes to improve its processes including recommendations from the Inspector General's report. 

  • Creating a documented process for how proposed constitutional amendments are handled from start to finish.
  • Creating written training materials for staff and requiring new and current staff to be trained on these processes annually.
  • Instituting written and electronic tracking systems for every step in handling proposed constitutional amendments.
  • Implementing a “top down” process which makes the department’s Executive Deputy Secretary responsible for leading staff response to proposed constitutional amendments, including notification of the physical receipt of documents, and convening executive team members to respond.

“The Department of State thanks the Office of the State Inspector General for its thorough review and recommendations,” said Secretary Degraffenreid. “As we move forward, we will be implementing these changes and looking for other process improvements.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, HB963, would have extended retroactively the timeline sexual abuse victims have to file civil action against their abusers. The mistake means it could take up to another 2 years to place the proposed amendment on the ballot for voters.

With the proposed constitutional amendment sidelined, many survivors of child sex abuse have now turned their attention to the General Assembly. Increasing pressure has mounted on Republican Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward as survivors press her to schedule a Senate vote on a measure that would open opportunities for child sex abuse survivors whose cases fall outside the statute of limitations. Ward, however, has previously claimed that passing the measure as a bill may result in it facing constitutional challenges in the future. 

A group of survivors met with Ward Tuesday as survivors claim they wanted to hear from her a 'yes' or 'no' on if she would run the measure. 

"We don't want excuses, are you gonna run it or are you not gonna run it? And we heard what we had to hear. She's not gonna run it," said Mary McHale, a survivor and advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse.

It was reported Tuesday that some survivors carried a pouch of silver coins and called Ward 'Judas.' It was also reported in news outlets that some of those props may have been thrown at Ward. 

"Not true. Not true at all," said McHale. "They actually... a couple of survivors that have been present, that were present, are very upset. They're trying to get media involved to hear their story from it. That was totally, totally thrown out of context. Never happened."

'I can tell you what happened. One of the survivors was holding a bag with coins and he held it up to call her (Ward) Judas or something, you know along the lines of the bible of reference, and put it down. Never threw it. Never threatened to throw it. That was totally out of context and I do believe the other thing that was totally out of context and the only story that was played about yesterday was that they stormed out of there. They didn't storm out. They went in with intent. The intent was yes or no. Are you going to run this? We don't want anymore excuses," said McHale.

When FOX43 as McHale where the majority of survivors' anger and frustration is centered and at what party, she said "se are just frustrated at the whole system. We are frustrated at the legislature. We're frustrated at everyone basically."

Hear McHale describe her reaction the Inspector General report

Hear McHale describe the survivors meeting with Sen. Ward

Before You Leave, Check This Out