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Penn State trustees heard diversity plan in secret

Plus, Dems cite recount delays in claiming Pa. House control.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Friday, December 16, 2022
Secret meeting, May day, troubled homes, executive summary, legal bills, Kingston Xmas, Jimmy Stewartville, and Fetterman's not-so-secret weapon.

A "confidential" document obtained by Spotlight PA indicates Penn State trustees heard the university's diversity, equity, and inclusion plan in secret during a 2021 gathering, a potential open meetings law violation.

According to the document — allegedly penned by one or more anonymous trustees at the time — Former Penn State President Eric Barron presented his DEI recommendations to the board on Jan. 11, 2021.

But no notice was given to the public and no records were published, despite the board's governing laws, which require both. 

Experts say it's hard to know whether trustees violated the law during the 2021 gathering without more information about what occurred, but they say it raises a host of questions about the need for such secrecy. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Penn State trustees heard university's diversity plan in secret 2021 gathering.

THE CONTEXT:  Reporting by Spotlight PA earlier this year raised questions about how Penn State trustees interpret the state's open meetings law after the newsroom learned the board's executive committee had regularly been meeting in secret conferences for more than a decade.

The board has maintained that it is in compliance with the law, but media law experts have questioned trustees' use of the provision.

Penn State receives large sums of taxpayer money as a state-related university, and calls for greater transparency continue.

In related news: Penn State claims DEI initiatives planned by faculty more than a year ago were not part of "a formal University effort."

That came as a surprise to those involved via subcommittees set up by then-President Eric Barron following the social upheaval of 2020. 

Read that full report here: Penn State distances itself from past diversity proposals while launching similar efforts.


"On December 7, 2022 — and still today — Leader McClinton was the Majority Leader because more Democrats had been certified as winners..."

—Pennsylvania's Democratic Party arguing in a legal brief that Republicans can't have a state House majority because a rash of recount requests from conservative activists has left at least 15 GOP wins uncertified
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Afternoon at the West Fairview Boat Ramp, via @yatsko. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

An island of trees surrounded by fog and the waters of the Susquehanna River.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION DATES: The GOP leader of the state House has issued competing writs for two Allegheny County special elections that Democrats had scheduled for Feb. 7. The move by state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) would delay the 34th and 35th House district contests until May but would not impact a third special election in Allegheny County's 32nd state House district. Here's why.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.'NASTY SCAM': One of Philadelphia's biggest real-estate companies, ABC Capital, is being called a "big fat nasty scam" by critics as investors declare it a Ponzi scheme and tenants find themselves stuck in homes where promised rehab work was done poorly or sometimes not at all, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Tenants like Georgia Knox, a mother of three, who says mold has infested her rental.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.COUNTY BID: Progressive state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D., Allegheny) has joined the race for Allegheny County executive, marking the contest's third entry of the week and fifth overall. WESA reported from Millvale on Thursday where prominent area Democrats, including Congressperson-elect Summer Lee and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, were on hand for Innamorato's campaign kickoff event.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.OPEN TAB: Chambersburg officials have shot down a request to forgive a $4,217 bill for police staffing at one of Republican Doug Mastriano's gubernatorial campaign events. WITF reports the request came from Mastriano's team and was rejected by the borough's council 9-1. The Inquirer reported that Mastriano still had more than $1 million in unspent campaign cash weeks after Election Day.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.GOING RATE: Former U.S. attorney and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill McSwain is earning $940 an hour to represent the Central Bucks School District in a federal LGBTQ discrimination complaint filed against the district by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Courier Times (paywall) reports. Central Bucks will pay a second former federal prosecutor, Michael Rinaldi, $640 an hour for related work.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.

COLLEGE LIT: Some Hempfield parents are protesting "sexual content" in books chosen for an optional college lit course for high school seniors, per TribLIVE. Titles include "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Handmaid's Tale."

NO VOTE: An Upper Moreland School Board member has resigned her position after vowing not to vote for a "cis, white male" for board president. Jennifer Solot apologized for "poorly chosen words."

WEB TEAM: Slate spoke with Fetterman campaign social media guru Annie Wu Henry, a York County native and self-proclaimed "zillenial," about her favorite moments from the past election cycle.

HOLIDAY HEAT: Pennsylvania's greatest holiday tradition returns with a decorated water heater dropped on another lawn in Kingston, Luzerne County. Chaz Balogh must keep it up or get stuck with it another year.

FOREVER FILM: CNN reports It's a Wonderful Life is still bringing people to theaters 75 years after its release. It's also bringing them to Indiana, Pennsylvania — home to one of at least two dedicated festivals.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Voyeurism

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Marty M., Kathy B., Ted W., Don H., Diane B., Barbara G., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Patricia M., Jon W., Kevin M., Craig W., John B., John F., Tracey C., Kimberly D., Myles M., Mark C., George S., Daniel M., Nancy S., Kim C., Brian B., Susan D., Martha D., James B., Dianne K., Jim A., Wendy A., George B., David W., John P., Tish M., Keith F., Timothy R., Bill S., and Gina L.
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