Former CalU president Armenti disputing payout after firing

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Marking another chapter in the ongoing drama between Angelo Armenti Jr. and the State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors, the embattled former president of California University of Pennsylvania said he learned Tuesday he would receive six month's pay in a lump sum, which he claims is yet another violation of his employment agreement.

Mr. Armenti was let go by the board May 16 amid accusations that he mishandled the school's finances and misappropriated scholarship funds during his 20-year tenure with the school.

The state system has not yet given a reason for his termination. But the following day, it released an audit that questioned financial practices at the university, especially those that revolved around the construction of a new $59 million convocation center on campus.

State System spokeswoman Karen Ball would not say whether Mr. Armenti, who was receiving an annual salary of $227,160, was fired with or without cause, which determines how much of his salary he receives when he leaves office, according to his employment agreement, obtained by the Post-Gazette through a right-to-know request.

But he claims that he was told he was fired "without cause." This entitles him to the salary of the remaining two years of his tenure, according to the agreement. If he was fired "with cause," he would be entitled only to six month's pay.

Additionally, Mr. Armenti said State System officials purposefully kept him in the dark about the circumstances of his termination.

Despite numerous inquiries with State System officials, Mr. Armenti said that before Tuesday, when he spoke with Cal U human resources staff, he had no clue if he would be receiving any additional pay, if he would be getting retirement benefits or if he still had health care. In an email sent Sunday to Guido Pichini, chairman of the State System of Higher Education Board of Governors and copied to the auditor general's office, Mr. Armenti wrote, "Thanks, once again, for continuing to deny me answers to simple questions."

Tuesday, in an interview, Mr. Armenti said the six month's pay "may not have been in dispute, but they never told me that."

"I've been asking and asking and asking and have been getting no response whatsoever," he said.

At a meeting with Pamela Murphy, director of human resources at Cal U, Mr. Armenti said he was told he would receive a letter from the state board confirming that his six months' salary -- in lump sum -- would be forthcoming.

The 72-year-old also learned that he and his wife lost their health insurance the day he was fired. However, he is now eligible for annuitant health care and is in the process of enrolling. His termination will have no impact on his retirement benefits through TIAA-CREF, Ms. Ball confirmed.

"He is being treated like any other annuitant with his years of service," she said.

There are still parts of his contract that are in dispute, including a stipulation that he receive six month's written notice before he is terminated. Instead, "I was given five minutes verbal notice," he said in an email to Mr. Pichini last week.

Asked about this discrepancy, Ms. Ball said "there is no agreement on that."

But, she added, firing university presidents "is one of the specific powers of the board" under Act 188, which outlines the body's power.

In Sunday's email to Mr. Pichini, Mr. Armenti also criticized of the State System's audit that accused him of mishandling of the school's finances. According to Mr. Armenti, he was not afforded an opportunity to rebut the audit's findings, which he called "character assassination" and claimed audit standards "were reminiscent of the Inquisition."

education - neigh_washington

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published May 30, 2012 4:00 AM


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