LEHMAN, Pa. - Despite criticism over his approval of $93 million in settlement payments to Jerry Sandusky's accusers, Philadelphia investment-fund manager Ira Lubert was elected chairman of Pennsylvania State University's board of trustees Friday.
The election was uncontested, but some alumni trustees had been vocal last week about their hesitance to elect Lubert without public scrutiny of the money paid to 32 Sandusky accusers. As chair of the board's legal subcommittee in 2012, Lubert oversaw the payout negotiation process.
As Lubert was bringing the meeting to a close, trustee Anthony Lubrano interrupted to praise Lubert for his behavior at a closed session that preceded the board meeting. Lubrano, the president of an Exton-based financial services and wealth management firm, was one of the alumni trustees who had been critical of Lubert.
"I want to commend you for this morning's discussion. I thought you demonstrated great leadership and confidence," Lubrano said. "It is unfortunate that we only got to hear it in executive session."
After the meeting, Lubert said he could not comment on what occurred in that private session, adding, "I think people have their opinions."
"Well, we had an open and frank discussion," Lubrano said. "Now he has to earn the vote we gave him."
Lubrano said he could not comment on whether the morning session cleared up his concerns about the settlement payouts.
The board of trustees meeting at the Wilkes-Barre campus was the first since last week's unsealing of documents that brought the Sandusky scandal back into the national spotlight. The documents raised questions about when football coach Joe Paterno and his staff knew of Sandusky's child sexual abuse, and included information regarding the university's settlements with claimants.
Penn State's insurer, among others, has criticized the university's vetting of claims and its quickness to settle with some of the accusers.
Outgoing chairman Keith Masser nominated Lubert, the vice chairman, for the top position, saying Lubert had "excellent judgment, great understanding of the university." No additional nominations were made.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a pro-Paterno alumni group that has criticized the investigation that found university leaders covered up Sandusky's abuse, had earlier in the week encouraged support for governor-appointed trustee Robert Capretto for chairman. There was no mention of that at Friday's meeting.
Lubert, 66, was appointed to fill a business and industry seat in January 2015. He previously sat on Penn State's board from 1997 to 2000 and 2007 to 2013. He has houses in Philadelphia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Mark Dambly, president of a Philadelphia-based real estate group, was elected vice chairman over Penn State graduate assistant Allison Goldstein by a 20-14 vote. Dambly, a Penn State alumnus, was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2010.
With 32 of the 38 board members present and two on teleconference, a simple majority of 18 was needed.
The board also approved a university operating budget of more than $5.1 billion, which includes a 2.29 percent increase in 2016-17 tuition for in-state students at the main campus. That means Pennsylvania residents will pay about $190 more a semester.
Lubrano, Ted Brown, William Oldsey, and Alice Pope voted against the budget and tuition increase.
Last year's tuition was $16,572 for freshmen and sophomores. The tuition for upperclassmen varies by major. In 2015-16, the university had a $4.9 billion budget and froze in-state tuition for the first time in nearly 50 years.
In his final remarks as chairman, Masser reflected on a tenure that began in January 2013. He said the arguments surrounding the scandal and its aftermath are signs of progress.
"Now we stand nearly five years from the scandal that rocked our institution to the core. There were questions about how and even if Penn State would carry on," said Masser, who has served on the board since 2008. "There were and continue to be a lot of differing views of what happened. . . . There certainly has been progress."