For many nonprofits, selecting the next board chair, well, just happens. In my consulting experience I frequently hear the selection process involving a vote for the "one person willing to take the job" or "the last person standing" or "they've done a fine job for the past 2,3,4 (no term limits for the office or for a board seat) years.
But for many other nonprofits, who takes on the board chair seat can (and in my opinion, should) matter a lot. And while hopefully few nonprofit boards have faced the trials, tribulations and governance failures of Penn State, who takes on the board chair seat can mean a lot more. Today's Philadelphia Inquirer highlights the tensions being experienced in what appears to be feta comple but speak to the significance of who will become the board's (trustees) next chair. Sadly, the article does not speak to the specific roles and responsibilities but clearly highlights the need for trust and confidence board members must have in selecting their "leader". I wonder that if the board reluctantly selects the chair "in waiting" that the next year or more of governance won't witness a lot more tension, unrest and perhaps turnover of dissatisfied board members if not the chair. I speculate of course but what should be recognized is that no one is taking the selection process lightly and that is a lesson for all nonprofit boards.
Here's the article.
Some Penn State trustees again questioning Sandusky payouts
Following the release this week of court filings that shed new light on Pennsylvania State University's multimillion settlements with Jerry Sandusky's accusers, some university trustees are calling for renewed scrutiny on the payouts - and the board member who led the committee that approved them.
Ira Lubert, a Philadelphia investment fund manager, who oversaw the negotiation process that has paid nearly $93 million to more than 30 sex-abuse claimants since 2013, is poised to become the next chairman of the university's board of trustees in a vote next week.
He is the board's vice chairman and the only candidate to replace outgoing chair Keith Masser.
While his detractors on the board concede they don't have the support to stop his ascension, they have vowed not to let him land the job without a grilling on the settlement process.
"Lubert is going to face some scrutiny because he was the man in charge of the process," said Anthony Lubrano, an alumni-elected member of the board, who has been critical of the university's handling of the Sandusky fallout.
"We plan to have some public conversations. What the alumni want more than anything else is openness, transparency, and it seems as if we haven't had a good-faith effort to do that."
The threatened showdown comes as the board is set to meet July 22 at the university's Wilkes-Barre campus. It is just part of the aftermath from the unsealing Tuesday of a trove of documents that cast new doubt on assertions by iconic football coach Joe Paterno and other members of Penn State's athletics staff that they knew nothing about Sandusky's sexual misconduct prior to his 2011 arrest.
Trustee Barbara Doran, who won election in 2013 on a wave of pro-Paterno sentiment, responded on Facebook on Thursday morning to the released documents and questioned Lubert's leadership.
"Enough," she wrote. "The board is about to elect a chair and vice chair who were part of the fateful decision-making of 2011 that has ruined our reputation, made life difficult for proud Penn State alumni everywhere, and cost us 10s of millions of dollars that should have gone to the nearly 50 percent of students who are first in their families to go to college and whose finances are generally desperate."
Similar sentiments were echoed by other board members contacted Thursday who did not wish to speak publicly.
Lubert, a college wrestler who has served on Penn State's board off and on for nearly a decade, did not return calls for comment Thursday.
His role as chairman of the board's legal subcommittee took on unusual prominence in 2012 as the university grappled with the deluge of legal claims brought by accusers alleging sexual abuse by Sandusky dating back as far as the 1970s.
Settlement negotiations took place between the university and accusers' attorneys. But the university granted Lubert's committee authority to approve payouts without bringing them individually before the full board for a vote.
Other members of the subcommittee included Kenneth Frazier, a lawyer and CEO of Merck & Co.; Stephanie Deviney, a lawyer at Fox Rothschild in Exton; and Keith Eckel, a Lackawanna County farmer. All have since left the board. Each has declined to discuss the committee's work on the settlements.
In the years since, critics - including Penn State's insurer - have challenged the committee and university lawyers, saying they failed to fully vet some claims while being too quick to settle others that the university could have fought in court.
"It appears as though Penn State made little effort, if any, to verify the credibility of the claims of the individuals," lawyer Eric Anderson wrote last fall in a report commissioned by the university's insurance company, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co.
He described some of the settlement totals as "extremely high" and concluded the university may have been operating under "a concern about publicity and a desire to resolve the matters very quickly."
Anderson's report was among the court filings unsealed Tuesday by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gary S. Glazer. It, along with documents pertaining to payouts made to the 32 Sandusky accusers, were filed as part of an ongoing legal fight between the university and the insurance firm over who should cover the costs.
In a conference call with reporters last week, arranged by the university in anticipation of the documents' release, Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent mediator Penn State hired to lead negotiations with Sandusky accusers, defended the settlements and the work of Lubert's committee.
Members of the subcommittee "got granular" in overseeing the details of each individual claim, he said.
"This was a very hands-on subcommittee and they knew their stuff," said Feinberg. "I'm glad to take on the critics who might question the legitimacy of this process. It worked just as it was intended to work."
Lubrano, one of the trustees critical of the settlements, pointed to the payout given to a man identified only as John Doe 150, who claimed he told Paterno in 1976 of his abuse only to be ignored - allegations outlined in a deposition that was among the documents released Tuesday.
The civil statute of limitations on the man's claims had long expired when he settled with the university. Lubrano, in an interview, questioned why the university did not challenge that case in court.
"We have a duty as fiduciaries to be good stewards of the university's resources," he said.
Slade McLaughlin, a Philadelphia lawyer who represented Doe 150 and 11 other Sandusky accusers in negotiations with the university, described Penn State's willingness to settle on claims even if they appeared to be time-barred as a smart move.
He pointed to recent pushes in the state legislature to open a window of time during which sexual-abuse victims with expired claims could sue their abusers. By settling with Sandusky's victims before such a law could be passed, Penn State was negotiating from a stronger position than it would have been had the accuser been allowed to file a suit, McLaughlin said.
"I felt that it was a very in-depth process. They did their due diligence," he said. "I never had the impression that this was a one-sided process where they just said, 'How much do you want? Let me write you a check."
Staff writer Joseph N. DiStefano contributed to this article.