DENVER – Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says the mediator who oversaw compensation for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks will oversee the distribution of money donated to the victims of the shooting at a suburban Denver movie theater.
Twelve people were killed and 58 injured in the attack in Aurora on July 20.
Hickenlooper said Friday that Kenneth Feinberg won’t be paid in his role as a special master overseeing the distribution of donations. Hickenlooper says Feinberg is taking the role “as a patriot in the purest way.”
It was also revealed Friday that Cinemark said in a letter it plans to reopen the theater where James Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan asked the company to refurbish and reopen the theater based on request from victims and victim’s advocates.
Holmes has been charged with 152 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes in the July 20 shooting. He has not entered a plea.
Last week, the families of 10 people killed and at least a dozen of those wounded called on Hickenlooper and lawmakers to appoint an independent arbitrator to oversee distribution of the donations.
The families say they’ve been frustrated by an initial plan that would have excluded them from the process of disbursing the funds, the time the process has taken and the possibility of spending donations on mental-health treatment.
Of the $5.2 million collected, $350,000 has been given to families for immediate financial needs and $100,000 has been split between 10 nonprofit groups.
Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed while protecting his girlfriend at the theater, remained skeptical of those in charge of the fund but said Feinberg’s involvement is probably a good thing if he “maintains his moral compass.”
He said the pain of families who have lost loved ones has been lost in the dispute.
“If all of this gets settled the right way, that pain won’t go away,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who has called for a change in the donation assistance process for the shooting victims, said in a statement he was pleased by the development.
He said Feinberg “brings instant credibility to the process in hopes of reassuring victims, their families, and all who have contributed to the recovery fund that this will be done right.”
Feinberg also was recently hired by Penn State in its effort to settle personal injury claims of victims molested by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, and he oversaw relief funds after the BP oil spill.
In a book he wrote about his victim compensation work – Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval – he wrote that more than $7 billion in taxpayer money was used to pay survivors of the 2001 terror attacks, with an average award for death of about $2 million, for injury about $400,000. Ninety-eight percent of claimants participated, and just 94 families opted out so they could sue.
At Virginia Tech, $6.5 million was distributed among 32 families, including five faculty members, using a methodology that took into account the length of hospital stays for those who survived.
Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin contributed to this report.