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Trustee Blasts Leadership of Penn State Board, 'Radically Different' Reform Bill May be in the Works

by on December 30, 2014 6:00 AM

The on-going battle between two factions on the Penn State Board of Trustees continues to simmer.

In the latest flare up, alumni-elected trustee Barbara Doran has issued an editorial attacking the board's leadership and calling for intervention by the state legislature and governor-elect Tom Wolf.

And at least one legislator appears ready to answer the call.

Doran charges that "a small cabal of influential [board members] has accumulated enough power that they make decisions on behalf of Penn State that are not necessarily in the best interests of the university ... Governor-elect Wolf and the state legislature should impose a solution on this small group of power players who seem unwilling to put their own desires aside and act for the greater good."

Fellow alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano says he has discussed "legislative intervention" with Pennsylvania State Senators Jake Corman (R-Centre) and John Yudichak (D-Carbon). Both legislators are Penn State graduates who have spearheaded a legislative effort to reform the board of trustees.

Earlier in the year, Corman and Yudichak co-sponsored Senate Bill 1240 in an attempt to reduce the number of board members.

In September, a board of trustees committee passed a proposal that would increase the board to 38 members. On Nov. 13 Yudichak and Corman sent a letter to board chair Keith Masser, asking the board to delay a vote on the proposal.

Less than a week later, the board of trustees voted to increase the size of the board from 30 to 36 members, a move opposed by the alumni-elected trustees who fought for a smaller board.

Yudichak is now planning to reintroduce legislation in 2015 to remake the board and the next proposal could be "radically different" than the previous effort. "Were going to go back to the drawing board," he says. "I think we'll try to codify exactly what it is to be a state-related university. Right now we have a situation where the current majority on the board wants to ignore state law. ... It's a personal agenda. They're ignoring their own bylaws.

"That tells me that I no longer have confidence in the leadership of the board or the direction of the board. ... The current leadership is not capable of reforming the board in a meaningful way," he says.

Doran also criticizes board members who skipped a special board meeting that was put together by the alumni-elected trustees last month. The meeting was called because the alumni-elected group wants Penn State to switch sides in an upcoming lawsuit between state officials and the NCAA. Days before the special board meeting Masser issued a statement saying "I am not intending to attend or participate in any special meeting to consider the matter ... Members of the Board are likewise free to decide whether or not to attend any such meeting."

Doran blasts Masser for his stand, saying, "These actions were irresponsible, unethical, and possibly illegal."

She is one of nine trustees elected by university alumni. That faction is pushing the board to address a number of highly-charged issues including a review of the consent decree that allowed the NCAA to impose harsh sanctions on Penn State's football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

You can read Doran's entire editorial below.

Penn State spokesperson David La Torre says the university has no comment on Doran's editorial. An email sent to board chair Keith Masser was not immediately returned. An email sent to Govenor-elect Tom Wolf's office also did not generate a response.

Asked what she wants to see happen, Doran tells, "The state should mandate a reduction in board size, reduce the power of the chair, make any nominating committees representative of the entire board, and reshape the demographics of the board to match 21st century needs."

"I would like to see the size of the board reduced to no more than 21 people," Lubrano told on Monday, adding that he's not optimistic about the chances for compromise. "I do not see resolution in the near future but more likely litigation," he said.

Addressing the impasse between the two sides, Doran says compromise is possible. "The two sides work together on many issues. We could collaborate on governance as well if the current board leadership would stop deliberately marginalizing all nine alumni-elected trustees. They have made it quite personal, at the expense of what is best for the university"

Doran contends that most Penn State alumni are unhappy with the way the Freeh Report was handled. "Why can’t we finally “cowboy up” and apologize for not reviewing the Freeh report," she says, "admit we were stampeded into signing the consent decree, state that we regret those actions and the disgraceful way Joe Paterno was treated, and vow to make amends?"

That controversial Freeh Report was put together by investigators working with former FBI Director Louis Freeh. It contained a scathing indictment of top Penn State administrators, accusing them of trying to cover up the Sandusky scandal.

Critics claim the Freeh Report was an incomplete investigation that resulted in a rush to judgment.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Senior Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz, all face trial on a number of charges including perjury, failing to report child endangerment and conspiracy. Those men have pleaded not guilty and promise to vigorously defend themselves in court. No trial date has been set.

Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach was convicted of abusing young boys and is serving 30-60 years in state prison.

Barbara Doran Op-Ed

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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