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Penn State Fires Back at Former Legislator Suing Over BOT Election

by on April 30, 2015 12:07 PM

Penn State may have lost the last battle in the lawsuit filed by a former state legislator, but the university isn't backing down from the fight.

Former republican legislator Jess Stairs is suing Penn State over an allegedly botched election he claims cost him a seat on the university's board of trustees. Earlier this month a Centre County Judge overturned all of Penn State's preliminary objections to the suit -- but Penn State is back in court with new legal ammo.

In new court documents filed this week, the university now argues that Stairs has his claims completely backward: it was Stairs who acted inappropriately during the board of trustees elections, attorneys for Penn State allege.

The lawsuit stems from elections to the board held back in May, which Stairs lost by a single vote. As laid out in the board's bylaws, every county in the state is permitted three votes from members of agricultural societies to elect agricultural representatives to the board. Stairs claims that the six Venango County delegates did not take the time to decide which three would vote, which prevented three members who planed to support Stairs from voting.

But Penn State says that's inaccurate.

The university says that there were only three delegates who were properly credentialed to vote at all, and those were the three delegates who voted against Stairs. Whether or not the other delegates who weren't properly credentialed would have voted for Stairs is beside the point, attorneys for Penn State argue.

But that's not all. Penn State now claims that Stairs himself tried to bypass the election requirements by giving false credentials to supporters who weren't authorized to vote. Penn State claims that a post-election investigation revealed that Stairs had obtained "extra credential cards" from one of the agricultural societies, which he then gave to his supporters.

"If any irregularities occurred during the election, those irregularities resulted from Stairs' conduct during the Election process in providing unauthorized credential cards to his friends and family," attorneys for Penn State claim. "...Those procedural violations committed by [Stairs] did not affect the outcome of the election."

Penn State goes on to ask the court to dismiss Stairs' lawsuit and to prevent him from filing again in the future.

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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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