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Senate Committee Mulls 'What it Will Take' To Reform the Board of Trustees

by on March 18, 2013 10:57 AM

Updated at 5 p.m.

HARRISBURG – Anthony Lubrano said he doesn't think the Board of Trustees will see reform unless change comes from the state level through legislation.

At a hearing before the Senate State Government Committee Monday morning in the Pennsylvania state capital, current and former members of the board of trustees and the Pa. Auditor General testified on governance reform for the board.

The committee, comprised of the chairman, Sen. Lloyd Smucker, and Senators Matt Smith, John Yudichak, Jake Corman, Mike Folmer and Andrew Dinniman, listened to testimony and asked questions about the structure of the board with an emphasis on attendance policies and the level of importance members place in their role as a trustee. The committee also wanted to know whether a trustee had ever been removed from the board.

Board chairman Keith Masser said that to his knowledge, a trustee has never been removed from the board but it is within the bylaws to do so.

Trustee Jim Broadhurst outlined some proposed changes to the board. At present, the board Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning has approved the changes and the board will discuss and vote on them at the May meeting.

Changes to the structure and governing procedures of the board include making the governor and Penn State president "ex-oficio" members, meaning they do not have a vote. The Penn State president will also be removed as the board secretary.

Some members of the senate committee wondered whether the president – who is employed by the board – should be a board member at all. During board committee meetings Thursday in Hershey, Pa., Masser said having a Penn State faculty member on the board is not possible because it is a "conflict of interest."

Other changes include increasing the time limit a former Penn State employee must wait to run for the board from three to five years; meetings conducted by telephone will be allowed.

"As we indicated, we think we are making progress. We hope the committee will be pleased with [it]," Broadhurst said. "We're all about moving forward – some difficult decisions were made but we continue to grow as a university."

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he is advocating for a smaller board. There is no reason, he said, to have 32 members. DePasquale said he is "concerned about the size of the board as compared to other universities," and wants to see the number of board members required for a quorum to be increased.

Lubrano testified alongside former trustee Robert Horst, who said he wants to see the size of the board decreased to only 19 members. Lubrano, a freshman trustee, said the size of the board should be reduced. However, Lubrano worries that other trustees are attempting to change the bylaws to oust him from the board – something he calls, "The Lubrano Rule."

Smucker wanted to know how the 32-member board would react should the committee introduce legislation to reform the board.

Masser said, "We would have to adapt."

During the proceedings, Dinniman said that although he was not a Penn State alumnus, he realizes there must be a great deal of honor and pride associated with sitting on the board.

"It is no longer nice and it is no longer a honorary to be on this board," Masser said, though he amended his statement in a matter of minutes.

Penn State alumni, including former football players and supporters attended the meeting, many who were at the board meetings on Thursday and Friday, all who advocate change to the board – though many who remain faithful to former head coach Joe Paterno have urged many members of the board to step down.

"The alumni seem to be angry with the Board of Trustees," Folmer said, producing a laugh out of the audience.

Lubrano served as a mouthpiece for the anger felt by many alumni as he discussed Joe Paterno.  The board removed Paterno as head football coach in November 2011, days after the grand jury indicted Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was eventually convicted of molesting several young boys.

"It's not lost on the Penn State community that Joe Paterno was fired for failed leadership," Lubrano said. "And that only one board member, who had prior knowledge [of Sandusky] stepped down."

Lubrano's reference was to former board chairman Steve Garban, who resigned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. Former vice chairman John Surma later announced he would step down as well. 

The committee wanted to know what is the biggest problem facing the board. Senators also focused on whether structural changes would make a major difference. Yudichak, a Penn State alumni who has spoken out against the NCAA sanctions and the Freeh report, asked whether the board "went outside of its bylaws by creating [the] Special Task Force." That task force hired the Freeh group to conduct an independent investigation into Penn State.

"The question of the day," Corman said, "is it human failure or structural failure?"

The senators said they expect to bring the men who testified back to hear more from them before making any decisions regarding legislation.

Posted at 10:57 a.m.

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate Committee on State Government convened at 10:30 a.m. Monday for a public hearing on potential reform to the Penn State Board of Trustees. 

Trustees Anthony Lubrano and Jim Broadhurst are expected to testify Monday. Members of the board, including chairman Keith Masser and vice chair Stephanie Deviney, are in attendance. The meeting is public and many Penn State alumni and supporters – who were also at last week's board meetings in Hershey, Pa. – have filled the hearing room. 

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is the first to testify. StateCollege.com will update accordingly as testimony is given through the hearing. 

Sitting on the senate committee are Senators Matt Smith, John Yudichak, Lloyd Smucker, Jake Corman, Mike Folmer and Andrew Dinniman. 

The hearing is being held in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building. 

Watch it live here



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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