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PSU trustees might have violated open meetings law

Plus: Altoona school district officers might carry AR15s soon, and Wolf spends thousands on private lawyers but won't say why.


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—Sarah Rafacz, Spotlight PA State College editor
This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

December 8, 2022
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Inside this edition: A potential Sunshine Act violation by Penn State trustees, Altoona school district officers might carry AR15s soon, and Wolf spends thousands on private lawyers but won't say why.

Former Penn State President Eric Barron and members of the university’s Board of Trustees may have violated Pennsylvania’s open meetings law in early 2021, according to a “confidential” document obtained by Spotlight PA.

According to the document — allegedly penned by one or more anonymous trustees at the time — Barron presented his diversity, equity, and inclusion recommendations to the board on Jan. 11, 2021. 

Barron’s plan was the result of months of work by the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Safety — a project that the president later said involved more than 6,000 employees and students — following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

The trustees’ website has no record of any presentation, call, or meeting on that date. The board’s governing documents require it to provide public notice at least three days before a regularly scheduled meeting and 24 hours prior to a special meeting. 

The board is also required to make public the minutes for all public meetings, including those of committees and subcommittees.

Shannon Harvey, director of Penn State’s Office of the Board of Trustees, confirmed the date of the presentation and told Spotlight PA in an email that Barron’s presentation was not a meeting but rather a “conference” as defined under the state’s Sunshine Act.

Conferences, according to the state law, can only take place in limited circumstances, primarily as a “training program or seminar, or any session arranged by State or Federal agencies” and never to deliberate business.

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. 

» Your support makes important public-service reporting like this possible. Help us continue it in 2023 by making a tax-deductible gift to Spotlight PA now. As a special bonus, all contributions will be DOUBLED.

Wyatt Massey, Penn State investigative reporter

Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
We've made huge progress toward our end-of-year goal of raising $125,000 and unlocking a $125,000 matching gift. More than 1,000 people across Pennsylvania have made a gift since Nov. 1.

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» Dispute over Pa. House special elections, control likely heading to court

» Pa.'s governor spends thousands on private law firms but won't disclose why

» Wolf backs regulatory change that would formalize discrimination protections for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians

» In tussle for Pennsylvania House leadership, parties clash over math and precedent

» Unprecedented number of recount requests delay election certification in at least 3 Pa. counties

» The teams helping Josh Shapiro prepare to become Pa.'s governor include wealthy donors, Republicans

THE EXIT: Join us next Thursday, Dec. 15 from 3-3:30 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A with Pennsylvania’s 47th Governor, Tom Wolf on his two terms, his legacy, and what comes next for Pennsylvania. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Moss along a stream in Tioga State Forest — via @joel_deserio.

Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
Moss grows along a small waterfall in Tioga State Forest in Pennsylvania.
» AASD officers may soon carry AR15s (Altoona Mirror)

» Date Set for Hearing on Nittany Mall Casino (StateCollege.com)

» 35-year-old Benner Township prison inmate died in cell. PA State Police will investigate (Centre Daily Times)

» Penn State looking into visitors code of conduct, in wake of canceling Proud Boys founder's appearance (WPSU)

» Judge rules against county commissioners (NorthcentralPA.com)

» Amid 'convoluted mess,' additional funding for Whitehall Road Regional Park is released (Centre Daily Times)
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Dec. 8-10: For the 33rd year, Mifflinburg puts on its German-inspired Christkindl Market.

» Dec. 8-11: Embrace the holiday spirit at Wellsboro's Christmas on Main Street.

» Dec. 9: Essence of Joy performs its Our Gift in Song concert.

» Dec. 9-11: The 41st annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas is packed with festivities.

» Dec. 9-11: Drive through the Festival of Lights at the McKean County Fairgrounds.

» Dec. 10: Enjoy breakfast with Santa, a story with Mrs. Claus, a horse-drawn carriage ride, and more at Old Fashioned Christmas in historic downtown Bradford.

» Dec. 11: Enjoy an outdoor Winter Market in Talleyrand Park.

» Dec. 11: Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra presents its holiday concert.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, "spotlight" also forms "stoplight."

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

Good luck!

Last week's answer: Plum

Congrats to G. S., who will receive Spotlight PA State College swag. Others who answered correctly: Linda C., Donna D., Linda A., Tish M., Janet D., Martha D., Connor A., and Leslie B.
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
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