UNIVERSITY PARK — Reaffirming decisions announced three weeks ago, Penn State trustees’ executive committee voted Friday morning to terminate Joe Paterno as head football coach and Graham Spanier as president.
Board of trustees Chairman Steve Garban said the special executive committee meeting, held at 8 a.m., was to “reaffirm and ratify” the board’s personnel decisions.
“Due to extraordinary circumstance, the board of trustees needed to act swiftly and decisively on the personnel decisions announced Nov. 9, 2011, and reported at the public meeting on Nov. 11,” Garban said. “We believe immediate action was necessary and we stand by those decisions.”
The meeting was held in the Nittany Lion Inn, but none of the trustees appeared in person. Instead, they took part via telephone conference. There was little discussion. The committee members voted unanimously by voice, and the meeting was over in about five minutes.
“What they did today was cross their T’s and dot their I’s,” said Vice President for University Relations Bill Mahon.
He said the minutes of Friday’s meeting will go to the full board for reaffirmation at its January meeting. He said he couldn’t speculate on the possibility that trustees violated the Sunshine Law by making those decisions in meetings conducted behind closed doors the week of Nov. 6.
Melissa Melewsky, an attorney with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said state courts have established through case law that a public agency that violates the Sunshine Law may “cure” the violation by repeating the action in a public setting, as the university is doing.
“It would be very, very unlikely that a challenge would win against the board,” she said.
The trustees held closed-door meetings, which were not publicly announced, in the days after news broke that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period, and that two university administrators were charged with lying about, and failing to report, what they knew about at least one such instance of abuse.
The trustees held a news conference shortly after 10 p.m. Nov. 9 to announce that Spanier would no longer be university president, and Paterno, the iconic football coach, had been fired. Rod Erickson, who had been executive vice president, was named the new president and Tom Bradley was named interim head football coach.
News of Paterno’s firing led thousands of students to flood the streets of downtown State College in apparent protest.
The nine-member committee also voted Friday to reaffirm the decision to appoint Erickson as president effective Nov. 9. While he was initially named acting president, the word “acting” has since been dropped from his title. University officials have said he is the president and there are no plans to conduct a search for the job.
Mahon said Erickson’s appointment isn’t for any specific length of time. Erickson, an ex-officio member of the committee, did not participate in the conference call.
Mahon said after the meeting that the board has had executive committee meetings before, including one two years ago about the budget and state support.
Mary Kay Hort, a daughter of Joe and Sue Paterno, was one of the people who attended the meeting and a news conference that followed.
She asked Mahon why any board members who live in the State College area didn’t attend in person. Mahon said he didn’t know.
Garban lives in Harris Township.
Hort declined to comment after the news conference.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. The Associated Press contributed to this report.