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Conklin to introduce bills changing PSU board
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer
STATE COLLEGE - If state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-77 of Philipsburg, has his way, big changes will be coming to the Penn State University's Board of Trustees. At a press conference yesterday morning, Conklin unveiled his plans to introduce four separate bills that would shake up the way things are done with the Board of Trustees. Conklin said it would be split into four different bills due to various technicalities. Conklin said the first would be the "Right to Know Law."
"What this will do is to bring not only Penn State, but all of the affiliates (state institutions) ... Temple, Pitt, Lincoln under the same guidance as the state universities," said Conklin, stating anyone would have the same rights to know what is going on at these universities as they do with state universities.
Conklin said the second bill would be the "Public Officials Ethics Act."
"This is where any organization that's involved as part of the governmental agency, has to follow the Ethics Act," said Conklin.
Conklin said the last two bills would most pertain to Penn State.
"This would be a change in the board itself," said Conklin.
Conklin said much of the way the board conducts business and its bylaws are the same as they were back in 1855.
"The only changes over the years is that they've managed the number of members, it's gone up, it's gone down, and it's gone back up again," Conklin said, referring to the current 32-member board.
The piece of legislation would reduce the current members by 10, setting a 22-member board. Conklin said of the 22 people, 21 of them would be voting members, with the state governor no longer being able to vote. Conklin said the state governor would still be at the meetings, but just not in a voting capacity. Conklin said the board president would also no longer be a voting member.
Another change would be the number of members needed for a quorum. Conklin said currently only seven of the 32 members can be present in order to have an official meeting. Under the new proposed guidelines, Conklin said they must have at least 12 of the 22 members present to constitute a quorum.
Conklin said the proposed reforms are prompted by recommendations that were issued by Auditor General Jack Wagner. Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano was on hand to offer his support toward the proposed legislation, but stressed he was speaking on behalf of himself and not the other board members. Conklin also said he feels the legislation needs passed immediately.
"I believe the time is right now," said Conklin. "I don't believe we can allow this to wait and fester for a couple years. I believe that we need to move quickly ... and hopefully enacted by the end of the year."
"This is a 4.3 billion dollar business," said Lubrano. "The time for us to step up our game has arrived."
Lubrano said there is a necessity for swift changes to the current board procedures, partly due in fact that Lubrano thinks some board members are in denial that change is needed.
"There is an arrogance among members of this board that suggests to me that they don't necessarily think that changes are required," said Lubrano. "I would disagree wholeheartedly. I think changes are desperately needed."
Lubrano said having a group of 32 is hard to get everyone engaged in discussion. With a smaller number, Lubrano thinks this problem could be alleviated somewhat.
Conklin said the new reforms will in fact make board members "responsible" for their votes, as well as becoming more hands-on within the university.
"It (their votes) will be public knowledge," said Conklin. "I believe that if you want to be a member of this great university, and you want to be on that Board of Trustees, you should be willing to put some work behind being a board member. It's going to make board members more accountable."
"I think it will make those who are offered membership (to the board) think carefully before they accept membership," said Lubrano. "Because they now truly understand the responsibility that comes with the role. There are six meetings a year. And sadly and historically, there are only members who are involved six times a year."
Lubrano said he had spoken with other board members about the legislation, stating some are "clearly interested in some type of reform."
Conklin was adamant that while the board and its processes would change, the university as a whole would stay the same.
"This piece of legislation does not change Penn State in any way," said Conklin. "It doesn't change the academics, it doesn't change the way the sport system's done, it changes nothing. All what this does is bring Penn State in line with the ethics laws, the right-to-know laws, and it brings it in line with how other universities are running their campuses. That's all what this does. They'll be no government interference. In fact, it takes politics out of the university. It strictly makes it a policy-driven board that is done to the best order of the university."
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