Candidate wants term limits for Penn State trustees

Published January 9, 2012

Middleton, Wis – A candidate for Penn State’s Board of Trustees today called for limits on the number of terms a board member can serve.

Trustees of the 32-member board would serve no more than two consecutive three-year terms under Ryan Bagwell’s plan for ethics and accountability, which he released today.

“Without term limits, the same people will continue to reinforce the same failed policies over and over again,” Bagwell said. “It’s the only way Penn State can begin to recover from the disaster created by this board’s leadership.”

Three alumni trustees are up for re-election this year. The nominating period will being on Sunday, and candidates who receive 50 nominations will secure a place on the April ballot.

Bagwell also wants to make trustees and top administrators file annual financial disclosures, which would reveal conflicts of interest with outside business activities. Such disclosures are commonplace in most states.

He also proposed stronger ethics policies that would give specific examples of what is and isn’t ethical conduct, like Pennsylvania’s ethics laws have done for years.

Bagwell’s plan would have revealed the high-paying jobs that some board members kept on the side. Trustees Chairman Steve Garban and Trustee Linda Strumpf both sit on the board of a Boston-based mutual fund, which pays them  $181,000 and $177,250 a year, respectively. Trustee H. Jesse Arnelle also served on that board until 2009, where he raked in $134,000 a year.

Former president Graham Spanier also made nearly $200,000 annually from sitting on the board of directors of U.S. Steel, a company headed by trustees Vice Chairman John Surma.

“Trustees shouldn’t be banned from having lucrative positions,” Bagwell said. “But when networking turns into highly profitable cronyism, true motivations can’t be trusted without fully disclosing outside influences.”

Bagwell’s ethics and accountability plan comes on the heels of his proposal to bring transparency to Penn State. It would make most university records public while maintaining reasonable privacy protections for personal records and sensitive financial information.

Bagwell, 32, is a web developer and former newspaper reporter from Maryland. He recently moved to Wisconsin while his fiancee finishes a Ph.D. program. A graduate of Council Rock High School, he grew up in Churchville, a Philadelphia suburb in Bucks County, Pa.

For more information contact:

Ryan Bagwell