Penn State Trustees Sue Alumni Association Over Ballot Access
April 14, 2015 11:55 AM
by Michael Martin Garrett
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Four members of the Penn State Board of Trustees are now suing the Penn State Alumni Association.

Alumni-elected trustees Anthony Lubrano, Ted Brown, Bill Oldsey and Alice Pope filed a lawsuit against the PSAA on Tuesday. The four trustees allege the PSAA violated its own bylaws by keeping them off the ballot for the upcoming May elections to PSAA's 86-member governing body, known as alumni council.

“With heavy hearts but with moral certainty we take this action," the trustees say in a prepared statement. They ask the court to force the PSAA to put their names on the ballot, which they claim would also force the organization to follow its bylaws.

In their civil complaint, the four trustees claim they communicated their interest in running for alumni council last year. In response, the PSAA reportedly informed them that all they had to to get on the ballot was to submit a nomination form by October. Though each trustee submitted a nomination form, they were all rejected by the PSAA's nominating committee in January.

The trustees claim that this decision is already a violation of the PSAA's bylaws because "there is no justification for PSAA to refuse to place  any of the Plaintiffs' names on the ballot" -- but they say there's another layer to the story. The trustees go on to allege that PSAA purposefully did not inform them that they could also get on the ballot by gathering signatures from alumni, which they say is a "deliberate non-disclosure" of information they were obligated to share.

The PSAA has previously put out a statement explaining its rationale for excluding some alumni from this year's alumni council elections. Some alumni were kept off the ballot because of ongoing lawsuits against the university, but the four trustees were disallowed precisely because they are sitting university trustees.

The PSAA felt that having trustees on the board could "compromise the Alumni Association's independence and autonomy from the university" and that trustees would have "the potential to exert disproportionate influence on the Alumni Association's governance process."

"What do the leaders of the PSAA fear?" the trustees say in their statement. "In the end, this matter can be resolved quickly by placing our names on the ballot and allowing the nearly 180,000 members of the PSAA to choose for themselves who they want to represent them on Council."

This isn't the first lawsuit the PSAA has seen over this year's alumni council elections. Alumni James Smith has also sued the organization for being excluded from the ballot. In response to the lawsuit, the PSAA relented and put Smith's name on the ballot -- but Smith's lawsuit is still ongoing, and he also claims that the organization violated its bylaws.

PSAA representatives did not immediately return requests for comment.


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