Penn State

Penn State trustees’ objections overruled in Stairs lawsuit

Jess Stairs
Jess Stairs

The man who thinks he should be a Penn State trustee scored some points Wednesday when a Centre County judge ruled in his favor on a list of motions.

Jess Stairs is suing the university’s board of trustees, as well as Chairman Keith Masser and trustee Betsy Huber specifically, because of problems with the 2013 election of agriculture trustees that cast doubt on the results. Stairs believes that if Venango County’s agriculture delegates had followed the rules, he would have edged out Huber and been seated on the board last year.

That was the argument his attorney made in a March hearing, and the trustees’ attorney countered with five objections.

First, the defendants said Stairs had not filed his claim in a timely fashion, waiting seven months to move forward. Stairs’ attorney, Dean Piermattei, replied that his client had been attempting to resolve the issue with the organization.

Judge Pamela Ruest agreed, writing, “Any delay in this case did not arise from Plaintiff’s failure to exercise due diligence. ... Moreover, defendants were not prejudiced by any such delay. Defendants were put on notice of Plaintiff’s allegations following the election.”

The trustees’ attorney also argued that Masser should not be named in the case because the Venango County votes were not enough to influence the outcome regarding his seat. Masser had 35 more votes than Stairs.

Again, Ruest opposed, saying it would be premature to drop Masser from the suit before Stairs had a chance at discovery.

Ruest also overruled the idea that Stairs had no standing to bring the case, that he had no ability to request relief and that the case should be dismissed because it was not filed in Orphans’ Court.

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