Penn State board: Student trustee had a choice

HARRISBURG – The student trustee on Penn State’s board “had to make a choice” between helping select the university’s next president or remaining a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the family of the late football coach Joe Paterno, a board spokesman said Tuesday.

The trustee, 23-year-old graduate student Peter Khoury, told the Centre Daily Times for a story published Tuesday that he is withdrawing from the lawsuit, which seeks to overturn stiff NCAA sanctions imposed last year because of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The sanctions include a four-year bowl-game ban and a $60 million fine.

The board is not a party to the litigation.

Khoury said he was threatened with removal from the 12-trustee presidential selection committee if he did not drop out of the suit. The committee is searching for a successor to university President Rodney Erickson, who plans to retire when his contract expires in June.

The board’s spokesman, David LaTorre, said Khoury and the other four trustees who joined in the NCAA suit have conflicts of interest because the suit makes “numerous allegations and claims” that are at odds with the university’s position. Khoury is the only one of the five who is also on the presidential selection committee.

“Board leadership has had conversations with the trustee plaintiffs in an attempt to resolve the conflicts,” LaTorre said.

In Khoury’s case, “his personal interests and positions in the litigation would have required that he recuse and absent himself from significant parts of the committee deliberations and candidate interviews,” LaTorre said.

“Trustee Khoury had to make a choice between his personal interests as a plaintiff in litigation and his role as a trustee member of the presidential search committee,” the spokesman said.

LaTorre denied that Khoury was given an ultimatum.

“It was his choice,” he said. “Nobody’s forcing the issue.”

Khoury, an Allentown resident who was appointed to the board in 2011 by Gov. Tom Corbett, did not return AP phone messages seeking comment.

Anthony Lubrano, one of the trustees who is a plaintiff in the suit, said they all received an email from the board’s office on Aug. 12 asking them to withdraw from the case. Lubrano said he won’t withdraw and that he was disappointed by the board’s handling of the situation.

“It’s just a sad commentary that we would begin threatening the youngest among us,” he said. “We can agree to disagree but we can do it in a way that’s less threatening, I think.”