Charity’s CEO quits amid local child sex-abuse suit

The Columbus Dispatch: The top official at the Loyal Order of Moose and Moose International retired on Thursday, one week after he was accused of molesting a boy in Franklin County more than 30 years ago.

William B. Airey, 71, left voluntarily and was not asked by the organization’s board to step down, spokesman Kurt Wehrmeister said yesterday.

Airey could not be reached at his Aurora, Ill., home for comment. In their statement on his departure and his appointed successor, officials with the Moose organization, based in Aurora, did not address the lawsuit filed last week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Jason Peck, a 44-year-old physician who now lives in Rock Hill, S.C., says in court documents that Airey sexually abused him in 1980 when both were residents of Franklin County. According to the complaint, Peck was 12 when the incidents took place in Ohio and during a trip to Louisiana.

The lawsuit also says that Moose International investigated Airey for sexual misconduct with children in 1996 and 2007 but did not take action.

The Moose organization, a charity that serves needy children and runs a residential community and school, is not a party in the lawsuit.

Peck’s attorney, Konrad Kircher of Mason, Ohio, said Airey and Peck were neighbors. Airey was a member of a Moose lodge in Whitehall but was not acting in an official capacity when he befriended the boy, Kircher said. However, the lawsuit says the two instances of alleged abuse occurred when Airey took Peck to Moose-related events.

Kircher said this week that the case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, now in prison for raping and molesting several boys, prompted Peck to come forward. The Dispatch does not usually name people who allege sexual abuse, but Kircher said Peck did not request anonymity.

Scott Hart, 43, the new Moose director general/CEO, said he doesn’t plan to discuss the allegations against Airey. “The allegations and lawsuit are a personal matter for Bill Airey,” he said. “My focus with the members will be the same. We’re working to do good in local communities.”

Hart had been executive director of Mooseheart Child City and School in Aurora. He assumed his new duties immediately as leader of the 1.2-million-member Moose organization.

An advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse said yesterday that Airey should have been suspended instead. “It’s irresponsible for them to pretend their CEO isn’t facing serious allegations,” said David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The group also speaks out on behalf of victims of abuse in other institutional settings.