Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nominees Selected to Penn State Board of Trustees--Opportunity to Engage In the Confirmation Process

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2014)

This was recently Reported: 
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett turned to a National Hockey League executive and a former director of the Pennsylvania Lottery on Friday to be the next two members of the Penn State Board of Trustees.

The governor nominated Buffalo Sabres chief development officer Cliff Benson - who also is a former member of the board and finance chairman of The Second Mile, the Jerry Sandusky-founded charity for children - and the lottery’s former executive director, Todd Rucci.

The nominees must be approved by a majority in the Pennsylvania Senate. Benson and Rucci would take the board seats currently held by Ira Lubert and Alvin Clemens. (Mark Scolforo,  Corbett nominates Benson, Rucci to Penn St. board, The Washington Times, Feb. 21, 2014)

The nomination must be approved by a majority vote of the PA State Senate. The Senate Majority Leader is Senator Dominic Pileggi:

Harrisburg Office 717-787-4712
Chester Office 610-447-5845
Glen Mills Office 610-358-5183
Twitter: @senatorpileggi
Anyone with something to contribute to the discussion in the Pennsylvania legislature might consider contacting Senator Pileggi or their own state senator.  This is a good time for people who feel strongly about issues of governance and engagement in the process of  selecting those with overall authority over the operations of the University to make their opinions known. I am happy to share them as comments to this post as well.

Additional press coverage follows:

Charles Thompson reported:
There is a fact that has been neatly excised from Penn State trustee nominee Cliff Benson's biography in recent years: He used to serve on the now-defunct Second Mile youth charity's statewide board of directors.

Gov. Tom Corbett is apparently not afraid of the association.

A Corbett spokesman said Friday that while the governor does know of Benson's Second Mile affiliation, he sees no reason why that should outweigh a lifetime of achievement and service that Benson can bring to Penn State.

"The governor considered both appointees' full body of experience and public service involvement when making his choice," Press Secretary Jay Pagni said.

Founded by convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, The Second Mile has now closed shop. Some of its assets have been transferred to a Texas-based youth ministry that hopes to continue its youth mentoring and family support programs in Central Pennsylvania.

Sandusky, according to case evidence, used his ongoing ties to the youth program he started to scout for boys that he would later assault. When Benson came onto the board, apparently in 2009, that was a nightmare that few knew about and no one was broadcasting.

Gov. Tom Corbett, meanwhile, has faced allegations by some critics of "slow-walking" the Sandusky investigation through his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, while racking up tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Second Mile leaders.

Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, about two-and-a-half years after allegations against him were first transferred to the state Attorney General's office - then headed by Corbett. (There are no signs that any additional children were molested by Sandusky after 2009, however.)

Corbett and several former members of the Sandusky investigative team have consistently dismissed those allegations, and countered that they took the time necessary to bring about a successful prosecution of a predator that others had failed to stop. (Charles Thompson, A Penn State trustee with Second Mile ties? Not a deal-breaker for Gov. Tom Corbett, The Patriot News, Feb. 21, 2014).

Debra Erdly wrote:
Gov. Tom Corbett has nominated Cliff Benson of Sewickley, a National Hockey League executive who was on the board of Jerry Sandusky's now-defunct charity for at-risk children, to fill one of two openings on Penn State's board of trustees.

Sandusky, 70, the former Penn State assistant football coach who founded the Second Mile, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for molesting boys he met through the charity.

The announcement of Benson's nomination omitted mention of his service with the Second Mile.

Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said the governor, who began the Sandusky investigation while he was attorney general, was aware of Benson's service on the charity's board from 2009 until 2011.

“Cliff has varied experience with charities and nonprofits. His commitment to the school as well as his commitment to the community is part of his selection,” Pagni said.

Benson did not return calls for comment. (Debra Erdley, Corbett selects hockey executive for PSU board, Tribune, March 4, 2014).

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