California University of Pennsylvania trustees passed a resolution Tuesday night lauding fired president Angelo Armenti's accomplishments and calling him a transformational leader, but members were mum on his controversial dismissal by the State System of Higher Education.
The council of trustees' first meeting of the post-Armenti era was switched to a larger room inside Old Main on campus in anticipation of a bigger than usual turnout. The hourlong meeting drew roughly three dozen people including media.
Trustees had hoped representatives of the State System's Board of Governors would be present to explain why Mr. Armenti was fired with cause, but they declined.
"This transition we're going through, it happens," council chair Robert Irey told the room.
Referring to the school's acting president Geraldine Jones, provost until Mr. Armenti's May 16 firing, Mr. Irey said "we have all the confidence in the world in our new leader.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us in the weeks and months ahead."
He declined further comment after the meeting, saying a personnel matter was becoming a legal matter.
"My understanding is there is potential litigation between Dr. Armenti and the state system," he said.
However, Steve Toprani, Mr. Armenti's attorney who attended Tuesday night's meeting, said no action has been filed. He said he is seeking an explanation from state system officials about their reasons for firing his client for cause.
Two of three members of the community who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting focused on the dismissal.
Moe Galis, 52 of Coal Center, who said he is a friend of Mr. Armenti, said the former president was "dealt a raw deal and a demeaning hand" by the board of governors.
"He was wronged."
Barbara Hess, vice president of the campus faculty union, told trustees it is time to focus solely on education.
"We are heartened that the board of governors had the courage to stand up to a strong university president and say 'enough is enough,' " she said.
In recent months, amid the economic slump and an enrollment dip, faculty became more vocal in their concern about nonacademic campus spending by Mr. Armenti and a fivefold increase in debt obligations over the last decade.
The day after his termination, the State System released results of a financial review in which auditors raised flags about certain Cal U financial practices.
Mr, Armenti has defended his actions and the school's financial decisions.
Leadership of Cal U's council of trustees support Mr. Armenti and want the State System to explain its actions.
First Published June 6, 2012 12:00 AM