The indictment of Doug Perlitz ’92 on allegations that he sexually abused children in Haiti sent shockwaves through the University community. While the organization that funded Perlitz, the Haiti Fund, was not directly tied to the University, multiple University members, ranging from alumni to administrators gave their time and money to the organization.
The strongest connection to the indictment and Fairfield is the involvement of former director of campus ministry Rev. Paul Carrier, who was the chairman of the Haiti Fund board. Carrier led fundraisers on campus and made several trips to Haiti, often bringing Fairfield students along, to help Perlitz at Project Pierre Toussaint, the school and home for homeless boys that Perlitz founded in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
In 2006, Carrier was reassigned by the Jesuit Provincial of New England, who at the time was former Fairfield professor Rev. Thomas Regan, to sabbatical, a decision that the University played no role in. Regan nor the Jesuits of the New England Province responded to phone calls.
The indictment states that “Board Members of the Haiti Fund were chosen by a religious leader, who had met and befriended Perlitz while Perlitz attended college in Connecticut and who frequently communicated with and visited Perlitz in Haiti.”
The indictment states that the $2 million donated to the Haiti Fund was moved directly to a bank account in Haiti controlled by Perlitz, by the religious leader. The lawyer for the Haiti Fund, Richard Markert, told the Connecticut Post that it is unknown what the funds were used for, but the indictment states that Perlitz used portions of the money to give gifts to the boys he was abusing in exchange for sexual acts.
The religious leader was not named in the indictment and Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut declined to comment to the Connecticut Post on whether Carrier was a target of the continuing investigation.
An internal investigation
Both Carrier and Perlitz were removed from the Haiti Fund last year following an internal investigation that revealed the allegations against Perlitz.
The investigation was the second in a short period of time conducted by the board, both run by outside counsel. The first investigation did not reveal any truth to the allegations, according to former board member Philip Allen Lacovara, a prominent New York attorney who also represents the Diocese of Bridgeport. Lacovara and other members of the board signed a letter supporting Perlitz.
“Our letter addressed a second round of investigation begun immediately after the completion of the first one, dealing with what I understood were the same vague allegations that had just been found unsubstantiated,” Lacovara stated. “Mr. Perlitz denied engaging in any improper behavior.”
According to Lacovara, the letter urged that Perlitz be presented “with the specifics of the allegations,” in order to address them.
“We noted that neither the signatories nor, as far as we were aware, any of the dozens of others who visited and worked on the project during the prior ten years — including doctors and mental health professionals — had observed anything in the interaction between Mr. Perlitz and the boys in the project suggesting that inappropriate conduct was taking place,” Lacovara added.
Haitian political turmoil
Fairfield politics professor Edward Dew, who has spent time in Haiti along with his wife and Carrier, is an expert on Latin America. Dew said that his impression of the country is that it “is a corrupt country with lots of problems.”
Perlitz spent time in Haiti while the government was overthrown, sticking with the boys he was helping, instead of abandoning them as many other volunteers did.
The resulting turmoil led to more instability and some of commented that Perlitz may have been the victim of false accusations.
“While I have no proof of corruption in the charges against Doug, I would be very dubious about individual claims or those broadcast on the local radio,” Dew said of the source of the original allegations.
Fairfield spokesperson Rama Sudhakar was clear on the separation between the University and the Haiti Fund.
“No tuition revenues were used at any time to support the Project,” Sudhakar said. “Project Pierre Toussaint is an independent non-profit organization founded by Mr. Perlitz and the Haiti Fund, Inc.is an independently incorporated entity. Fairfield University did not have any role in their management or board oversight.
“Many individuals on campus and in the community have supported the Project. Collections received from individual supporters during weekly Masses [at the Egan Chapel] were used to support the Project, in addition to other charitable organizations and service activities,” Sudhakar added.
One member of the board was Laurence Miners, an economics professor. Miners said, speaking on only his own behalf, “I see no reason why Fairfield University’s reputation should be tarnished in any respect by what is alleged to have occurred.
“According to the indictment, even the board of directors of the charitable organization that directly funded PPT were unaware of Mr. Perlitz’s alleged wrongdoing until allegations concerning him became public,” Miners added.
Sudhakar said that the University will continue to practice the Jesuit teachings of social responsibility, even in the face of these charges against Perlitz
“There are no winners here, only victims,” Miners said.
“I keep the boys of Project Pierre Toussaint in my heart and in my prayers.”