Thursday, September 28, 2006

Penn State, Portland, and their Declaration of Independence

Today we learn from the CDT that,
Five months after the Penn State president issued a public reprimand of Rene Portland, university insurance is still financing a legal defense for the embattled basketball coach.
Of course, Penn State flack Tyson Kendig tells us that this is standard operating procedure. The University carries insurance for just such contingencies and routinely pays for the legal defense of it employees when they are sued as a result of preforming their official duties. The article notes that in fact the University has paid the legal expenses of other employees in recent months. I don't dispute any of that. It is however somewhat beside the point. I would like to know if Penn State has ever refused to pick up the tab for the defense of one of its employees and, if so, under what circumstances.

The fact that Penn State is picking up the tab raises the issue of whether or not the Portland and Penn State legal defenses are independent of each other. Portland hired the lawyer Jack Stover, from Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney, a large firm with offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and California. On the surface it would appear that her lawyer is independent of Penn State.

What the article does not tell you is that Jack Stover was, and may still be, the legal counsel for Dickinson School of Law Board of Governors. He represented the board during the DSL Penn State death match a few years ago. In that capacity he represented the interests of those on the board aligned with Spanier. This would mean that he worked with Wendell Courtney, Penn State's general counsel, in Penn State's successful effort to relocate the school to University Park. Further, according to his profile on his firm's web site he is an adjunct professor at DSL.

It is beginning to look like Penn State and Rene are putting up a unified defense, but are not publicly acknowledging this. The sanctions against Portland and her public denouncement of them at her infamous news conference are starting look like a piece of political theater designed to give the appearance of distance between her and Penn State.

A possible conflict of interest, duplicity, and a lack of transparency, all in a day's work at Penn State.

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