Penn State trustees: Lubrano, Doran carry reform mission to governance committee

mdawson@centredaily.comJuly 11, 2013 

  • ON THE AGENDA

    Upcoming at Friday’s Penn State board of trustees meeting:

    •  Election of board officers, namely who will take over the vice chair seat vacated when incumbent Stephanie Deviney was ousted. The vice chair seat is seen as a stepping stone toward the chair position.

    •  Announcement of tuition rates and fees for 2013-2014

    Updates on the Freeh recommendations and governance reforms

When Manhattan wealth manager Barbara Doran was campaigning this spring for election to Penn State’s board of trustees, she pledged to stand up for the university whose reputation she said was wrecked in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. She supported revamping the board, saying its large size and structure contributed to the way the aftermath rocked the university.

A year before, another candidate was sounding those calls. Anthony Lubrano ran on a reform platform that, among other causes, also endorsed governance changes.

Now, Doran and Lubrano find themselves in prime positions to work on fulfilling their promises to the alumni who voted them in.

The two reform-minded trustees have been appointed to the board of trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee, the group that regulates how all trustees conduct themselves and the one that develops strategies to guide the university.

For Lubrano and Doran, they’ll have voices on the committee that already ushered in a slew of historic reforms, such as removing the university president’s and governor’s voting powers and expanding a conflict of interest policy regarding trustees doing business with Penn State.

They’ll be able to bring up their issues and see if they catch on to be forwarded for full consideration of the board, and so the purpose of the committee underscores the significance of Lubrano’s and Doran’s appointment to it.

“We’re ready to attack this full board,” said Lubrano, referring to taking on the governance reforms he’s supported.

Board Chairman Keith Masser made the appointments, which took effect July 1.

Lubrano and Doran will get to experience their first governance and long-range planning committee meeting Thursday afternoon at the Penn State branch campus near Uniontown, Fayette County.

The agenda remains a confidential document until the meeting starts, although they could discuss granting emeritus trustee status to Anne Riley, who lost her bid for re-election in 2012, and David Jones, who did not seek re-election last year, in the wake of the Sandusky scandal and uproar over the trustees’ firing of head football coach Joe Paterno.

For those who don’t come from far and wide to attend the committee meetings, the work that goes on here may sound dull and bureaucratic.

But, over the past year, the committee’s members were a force behind the recent reforms, which university leaders have hailed as significant. The committee members sifted through recommendation after recommendation about improving the governing structure of the board and university and moved those ideas to the full board, where they were approved in May. The reform package also included increasing the attendance required for a quorum from 13 to 16 and 12-year term limits for trustees.

Lubrano, though, when it came time for a vote, opposed the reform measures, saying they did not go far enough.

Masser said he appreciates what each trustee brings to the board, and his move to appoint two of the so-called reformist trustees to the governance and long-range planning committee is a continuation of open dialogue.

“When we opened our committee hearings to the public, people saw firsthand that we welcome diverse opinions and encourage discussion on a wide variety of issues,” Masser said. “That’s healthy and ensures everyone has a voice.”

For those pinning their hopes on Doran and Lubrano to push through a resolution to denounce the Freeh report or challenge the NCAA’s imposition of harsh sanctions on Penn State, those issues are not under their committee’s purview. Instead, the Freeh report and the NCAA issues would belong to the legal and compliance committee, and the only trustee elected to the board post-Sandusky on that committee is former Nittany Lion football player and lawyer Adam Taliaferro.

Doran and Lubrano indicated they won’t waste time in getting down to business Thursday. Doran said she’s started to lay the groundwork.

“A lot of conversations are already underway, with old and new trustees, that are very constructive, and we are listening to each other,” said Doran, who pledged on the campaign trail to get to know each trustee if she were elected. “I know I will try to persuade other like-minded trustees and outsiders of the importance of continuing this reform work with tangible action.”

Lubrano and Doran said they favor a board that’s smaller than the current 30 members.

The two trustees said they advocate for a more open election process for those appointed to represent business and industry interests. They also support reducing the governor’s influence, saying it’s disproportionate for nine gubernatorial appointees and Cabinet members to hold such sway on the board when the state contributes $282 million to the university’s $4.3 billion budget.

“The question is,” Doran said, “when they contribute 7 percent of the budget, should they have a third of the representation on the board?”

Doran and Lubrano’s appointments are encouraging to the contingent of Penn State alumni who are angry with the board’s handling of the scandal, including the firing of Paterno and the acceptance of the Freeh report the day it was released last year. The Freeh findings were released one year ago Friday.

“It’s critical to the future of the university for the board to revisit the investigative procedures, methodology and conclusions of the Freeh Report,” said Maribeth Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. “It’s time, once and for all, to be honest about what Freeh was hired to do, and to establish a plan for unwinding the trail of destruction caused by that weak, flawed and factually inaccurate document.”

Joining Lubrano and Doran on the governance and long-range planning committee are Keith Eckel, the committee chairman; Carl Shaffer, the committee vice chairman; Marianne Alexander; Jesse Arnelle; James Broadhurst and Richard Dandrea.

Broadhurst previously served as the committee chairman, and Dandrea is a freshman trustee, having been elected by business and industry delegates in May.

The two other new alumni-elected trustees have been appointed to other committees.

Edward “Ted” Brown was named to the audit and risk committee and the outreach, development and community relations committee. William “Bill” Oldsey will serve on the academic affairs and student life committee.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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