This is installment four of a multi-part opinion/analysis series that will highlight some interesting information about current and former members of the Penn State University Board of Trustees. Exhibit 4: Keith Masser, outgoing Chairman of the Board
Inspired by the doggedness of crack CNN reporter Sara Ganim as she chronicles the path and magnitude of the meteorological disaster du jour, I’ve put together a brief timeline of Chairman of the Board Keith Masser’s wide swath of destruction as a Penn State trustee. An estimate of the damage attributable in whole or in part to Masser will be represented by the following scale:
$- “He said what?”
$$- “Ooh…that might cost ‘em!”
$$$- “Oh, yeah…that’s gonna cost ‘em, all right!”
$$$$- “Uh oh.”
2008-Masser joined the BOT as an Ag representative (7/1/08).
2009/2010-Mostly, he just festered.
2011-Keith claims to have learned of Sandusky investigation for the first time (5/13/11). Took no action ($$). Festered some more.
2012-Was elected Vice-President of the BOT (1/20/12), becoming a member of executive committee, thus sharing responsibility with that group for their actions from this point forward ($$$$). Masser made public comments accusing “top administration and athletic officials” of a coverup on 6/16/12 ($). Attorney Rob Tribeck, since elected to the Board, remarked: “…(H)is statements, made as a member of the Board of Trustees, constitute a statement of the Board of Trustees and will undoubtedly be utilized in pending litigation against the university." ($$$) Oops! Masser apologized for his ill-advised comments a few days later (6/20/12). Following the release of the Freeh Report ($$$$) on 7/12/12 and signing of the consent decree ($$$$) on 7/23/12, Masser parroted the “move on” mantra ($$) on the Board’s ensuing teleconference call on 8/2/12.
2013-Masser was elected Chairman of the Board (1/18/13), almost immediately (3/15/13) brushing aside trustee Anthony Lubrano’s request to reconsider the Freeh Report ($$), saying the matter would be referred to the Legal and Compliance Committee. "Whether it comes out of committee is another question." ($) On 7/6/13, he told USA Today that the information disclosed in the Freeh Report was “speculation,” potentially a positive development. Oops, again! He then wrote a letter to the editor to USA Today two days later, charging them with running a “sensational headline” (“Penn State leaders don’t endorse Sandusky coverup findings”) and calling their editorial a “gross misrepresentation.” ($)
2014-Masser was deposed in the Corman v. NCAA lawsuit (11/24/14). Let’s see if we can detect a common theme in his responses:
“ I do know that the Board was interested in not having the NCAA do an investigation.”
“…the NCAA was to be made aware that we’re doing our own investigation to try to prevent the NCAA from doing their own investigation of Penn State.”
“My expectation was that Penn State’s own internal investigation, I was hopeful that it would prevent the NCAA from doing their investigation or from doing another separate independent investigation.”
“We were trying to keep the NCAA and utilizing the information that was being obtained from the Freeh Group to preclude them from doing their own investigation.”
Q: “And then that would – that Freeh Group investigation would hopefully prevent other organizations from doing their own investigations?” A: (Nodding head.)
“As I stated before, we were interested in not having the NCAA doing its independent investigation.”
“I was involved in a briefing that we were trying to keep – that the University was hoping to keep – was trying to keep the NCAA [from] doing their own investigation of this.”
“I just know top line that the – our own independent investigation that the University was doing their own investigation, to preclude another investigation being done.”
Q: “Your expectation was that hopefully the Freeh Group process would forestall action by other bodies including NCAA, and you named some of them before, too?” A: “Right.”
First words I’ve believed out of an Old Guard trustee’s mouth in five years. Is there any remaining doubt that Freeh was hired not to conduct an investigation, but to prevent one? ($$$$)
On 12/15/14, Masser organized a boycott of a meeting called by Lubrano ($) to take action on a motion to have Penn State join the Corman v. NCAA lawsuit as a plaintiff, effectively killing the idea ($$$$).
2014/2015-Masser continued to stonewall alumni trustee requests to review the Freeh documents, eventually forcing a lawsuit (4/20/15) in which the alumni trustees prevailed (11/19/15; $$$). On 1/10/15, he appointed former trustee Ira Lubert (an officer in Masser’s business, Sterman Masser, Inc.) to fill Karen Peetz’s seat on the board following her resignation ($$$$). As COB, Masser appointed chairs for the University’s seven standing committees each year for three years, a total of 21 appointments. Exactly one was awarded to an alumni-elected trustee: Joel Myers in 2013, as chair of the Outreach, Development and Community Relations committee. Coincidentally, this appointment followed Joel’s 180 degree pivot away from calling for review of the Freeh Report on 8/10/12, shifting to full on “move on” mode in the Board teleconference call of 8/12/12. Quid pro quo, anyone? Among Masser’s other chairperson appointments: Lubert to Legal and Compliance in 2013 ($$$$; see also “settlements with alleged victims” and “What insurance coverage?”), and Mark Dambly to Finance, Business and Capital Planning for three consecutive years, 2013-2015 ($$$$; see also “Ancient Chinese proverb: When a man hires a cat to tend his goldfish pond, he will end up with fewer goldfish…and probably more cats.”)
And on 6/22/15, with Penn State enmeshed in a commercial disparagement lawsuit with the Paterno family, a feckful chairman of the board might have considered it unwise to display a disparaging newspaper article about Joe Paterno on his Facebook page.
But that’s not how Keith rolls ($$$). On 9/18/15, the alert ChiTownLion saw the posting and reported it on BWI’s McAndrew Message Board. Later the very same day (no doubt completely unrelated to ChiTownLion’s “pantsing”), Masser took the post down. Juvenile stunt. Almost comical…if it weren’t so pathetic.
And this guy is the chairman of the board of a major university. Absolutely stunning.
And by the way, what exactly IS a
"board of trustee"??