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Judge Smacks Down Trustee Lawsuit Against Alumni Assocation

by on May 07, 2015 10:40 AM

The four Penn State trustees who took the university alumni association to court are down for the count.

In a ruling filed this week, Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler ruled against the alumni-elected trustees who sued to get their names on the ballot for the Penn State Alumni Association's governing body. The trustees -- Anthony Lubrano, Alice Pope, Ted Brown and William Oldsey -- alleged the PSAA purposefully withheld information about the nomination process before wrongly denying them ballot access.

But Kistler disagrees. As he points out, the PSAA's bylaws and the guidelines for getting one's name on the alumni council ballot were available on the PSAA website at all times during this dispute.

"Petitioner's ignorance of the [bylaws] cannot provide the basis for a cause of action against the PSAA," Kistler writes.

Part of the lawsuit was also a disagreement about which version of the bylaws to follow. After the trustees were kept off the ballot, the PSAA updated its bylaws to include a clause that specifically prevents sitting university trustees from joining Alumni Council. The PSAA argues that trustees would be able to unfairly exert greater influence than other council members.

Kistler agreed with the trustees that the "Old Bylaws" are the crux of the lawsuit, since the suit was filed before the bylaws were changed. But "despite petitioners' failure to consult the Old Bylaws during the nomination process, the Old Bylaws provide no relief."

A similar lawsuit was filed by alumni James Smith against the PSAA in March. Unlike the trustee's action, Smith was successful in having his name added to the ballot.

This is the second time this week that a group of alumni-elected trustees have lost a battle they brought to court.

The same four trustees who sued the PSAA (plus fellow alumni-elects Barbara Doran and Robert C. Jubelirer) filed a petition in Centre County Court on Monday. They wanted access to information about candidates for the board of trustees.

Penn State president Eric Barron and board chairman Keith Masser both responded that the trustees already had free access to what they wanted, as long as they agreed to confidentiality restrictions laid out in the board's bylaws. The trustees had wanted Friday's elections to the board pushed back by the court, but the elections will proceed as planned.

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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