Karen Peetz should resign

Published March 9, 2012

After the trustees’ abysmal performance in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, I never thought they could do any worse.

Surprise. They just did.

In a story today about a series of illegal meetings held last month, newly minted board President Karen Peetz today revealed her fundamental misunderstanding of Pennsylvania’s open meetings law. The Sunshine Act doesn’t force boards to discuss matters in public, she said. It only makes them vote in the open.

“I don’t see it as a sunshine law issue until we vote,” she told the Harrisburg Patriot-News. “If you waited for all meetings to be public, you wouldn’t get anything done.”

That understanding, as most people know, is completely wrong. Groups subject to the Sunshine Act must meet in public whenever a quorum of their members discusses agency business, except in a very limited number of circumstances. And as I wrote last week, the board’s “retreat” last month, during which they decided to restructure the board’s organization, clearly should have been public.

But Karen either doesn’t read the Bagwell for Penn State blog, hasn’t read the law or doesn’t care about it. Because today she doubled down on her wretched feelings about transparency.

“There’s a lot of block-and-tackle work here,” Peetz said. “Anything that is of real concern that needs to be public will be public.”

Trust us, she said. We’ll tell you what’s important.

That’s a typical mantra of a Wall Street barron, whose primary goal is to make as much money as possible and is required to tell the public very little about her business practices. But Penn State University isn’t Penn State Inc. Most trustees, especially the so-called “Business and Industry Trustees,” don’t get that.

It’s obvious that Karen cannot lead Penn State out of its current crisis. What the university needs more than ever at this juncture is someone who has a commitment to transparency and is committed to its establishment. Everybody but the board knows that, and its leadership keeps shooting itself in the foot. Only two months into her tenure as board president, Karen has managed to further erode the miniscule amount of trust that remained between the board and its constituents. She should resign.

But we know, like her predecessors, she won’t do that. So in lieu of leaving the board, Karen, please. Stop. Just stop. Don’t do anything else until new trustees take office in July. We can’t afford the mistakes you’re continuing to make.

In addition, Bill Mahon, a Penn State vice president and the university’s chief spokesman, also needs to go. His ridiculous assertion that the board’s retreat wasn’t subject to the Sunshine Act was either a flat-out lie or a total lack of understanding of the law. He has no credibility, and therefore cannot continue as Penn State’s official public face.

It’s time to clean house. But in the meantime, for Karen, Bill, and all other leaders at Penn State: here’s a copy of the Sunshine Act. It’s not that long. Give it a read.

  • Alum

    Insular small minded article.  

    • Anonymous

       Care to elaborate?