State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Public Hearing to Consider Proposed Reforms for Penn State Board of Trustees

by on October 08, 2013 6:45 AM

The movement to reform the Penn State Board of Trustees will have a high-profile platform later this week.

State Rep. Scott Conklin, (D-Centre County) will hold a public hearing to discuss his multi-bill reform package for the board on Wednesday.

Rep. Conklin's public hearing will start at 7 p.m. at the Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport in the Ostermayer Room of the Student Community Center.

The legislation is an attempt, in Conklin's opinion, to increase transparency and accountability within the board. The proposed reforms are prompted by recommendations made by former state Auditor General Jack Wagner in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case.

One proposal would prohibit anyone who has served as governor or in a statewide office from serving on the board until four years after their term has ended.

Conklin's spokesman Tor Michaels says Conklin thinks it is a reasonable request to remove people from the board who have a conflict of interest.

"There is an inherent conflict when people sitting in state office also are on board of trustees," Michaels says. "If enacted, this new policy would mirror policies many universities have across the country."

Conklin also wants to make the board compliant under the state Ethics Act, meaning each board member would have to disclose whether or not they have direct business interest when votes come up for projects on campus.

"There are millions of dollars that go through this university," Michaels says. "At least everything is transparent as we move forward."

Also part of the package is a plan to impose term limits of nine years for board members and to make the board compliant with Right to Know laws.

Michaels believes term limits would allow a healthy turnover of board members, creating a system that fosters fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Regarding Right to Know, Michaels says it would increase the accountability.

"If you spend the taxpayer's money, the taxpayer has a right to know where it is spent," Michaels says. "That's as fundamental as it gets."

Michaels says the package should ideally be passed during the current legislative session, which ends in 2014.

"If we see any significant change it will be in this session," Michaels says. "Unless we get this legislation through this session, the idea it would be brought up again is very, very minute."

Adam Lidgett is a freelance reporter who has covered news and feature stories in State College and Centre County.
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