Net implements nonfraternization policy

Just days before production was set to begin on the next edition of “American Idol,” Fox and the show’s producers have cleared Paula Abdul to continue with the show and implemented an “enhanced nonfraternization policy.”

That means Abdul will be on hand Thursday at San Francisco’s Cow Palace to resume her “Idol” judging duties as auditions open for next year’s competition.

The net, along with FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment, said late Friday that outside counsel conducting a massive internal investigation had failed to corroborate claims by former contestant Corey Clark that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with Abdul.

Abdul admitted she had phone conversations with Clark while he was a contestant, but the independent counsel concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” that the communication had any impact on the show’s competition.

As a result of the investigation, the producers and network have implemented an enhanced nonfraternization policy “aimed at preventing any future incidents that could even appear to call into question the relationships between contestants and judges or any other individuals working on ‘American Idol.’ “

The independent counsel, made up of partners from the law firms of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Morrison & Foerster, spent 3½ months and logged 600 hours investigating Clark’s claims, which gained national attention via ABC’s “Primetime Live” newsmag.

The counsel, led by Marcellus McRae and Ivy Kagan Bierman, interviewed 43 individuals, including Abdul and Clark.

“This decision to begin an inquiry was motivated by a profound commitment to preserve the integrity of the ‘American Idol’ competition,” Fox and the producers said.

The “Idol” flap dominated Fox’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour executive session last month, as new entertainment prexy Peter Liguori said he took the allegations against “Idol” and Abdul “very seriously.”

At the time, Liguori said Fox would offer “a full display” of the inquiry once it was completed, but Friday’s statement said that “no further information regarding the identity of the witnesses or details of the inquiry will be disclosed.” The network and producers said that would be the case because the inquiry related to matters “of a personal nature.”

“I’m grateful this ordeal is over, and I’m so looking forward to getting back to the job I love,” Abdul said in a statement.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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