COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The top official at the Loyal Order of Moose and Moose International fraternal organizations molested a boy more than 30 years ago in Ohio and Louisiana and years later was twice investigated for sexual misconduct with children, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
The complaint, by North Carolina physician Jason Peck, says William Airey, chief executive officer and director general of Moose International and the Loyal Order of Moose in Aurora, Ill., in suburban Chicago, began grooming him to abuse him sexually in 1980, when he was 12.
The lawsuit says Airey was a member of a Moose lodge in Whitehall, in suburban Columbus, where he took Peck to Moose-related functions. The lawsuit, filed in Franklin County court in Columbus, says the abuse began in Ohio and continued elsewhere, including New Orleans.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who claim to be victims of sexual abuse, but Peck’s attorney, Konrad Kircher, said Peck has agreed to go public with his allegations.
Airey, 71, was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary on a trip Thursday and wasn’t available to comment, said Moose spokesman Kurt Wehrmeister, who added the organization hadn’t spoken to Airey.
“The fraternity is shocked by this allegation as this is not the Bill Airey we know,” Wehrmeister said in a statement.
He added that Airey will not be in contact with residential students at the organization’s Mooseheart Child City & School for needy children and teens, in Mooseheart, Ill., until further notice.
“Upon his return the board will seek to ascertain all facts related to the situation and determine what actions if any are necessary,” Wehrmeister said.
A message left on Airey’s home phone was not immediately returned.
The lawsuit says Peck is seeking financial damages above $25,000 along with punitive damages. Peck “has suffered extreme emotional and psychological injuries and will continue to suffer from such injuries in the future,” it says.
It also says Peck had incurred treatment expenses, lost wages and lost earning capacity.
Peck, a psychiatrist and sleep care physician, decided to come forth after news broke of the sexual abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, said Kircher, Peck’s attorney. Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 and was convicted in June 2012 of abusing several boys, some on Penn State’s campus; he’s serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison but maintains his innocence.
Peck realized that “this is something he has to confront now,” said Kircher, of Mason, in southwest Ohio. “It’s been torturing him for the last few decades.”
Airey bought Peck alcohol and gifts before abusing him, Kircher said in an interview.
Peck, who lives in South Carolina in a suburb of Charlotte, N.C., also hopes that filing the lawsuit will encourage others to come forward with any additional allegations, he said.
The Loyal Order of Moose is a fraternal and service organization founded in 1888, with nearly 800,000 men in about 1,800 lodges in all 50 states and four Canadian provinces, plus Great Britain and Bermuda, according to its website.
Moose International investigated Airey “for sexual misconduct with children” in 1996 and again in 2007 but took no action, Peck’s lawsuit says.