Penn State offers no comment on report of president candidate under investigation in New York

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Penn State University declined comment on a published report that the head of the State University of New York's upstate medical campus was in line to become Penn State's next president until questions arose about his finances last week.

The Albany (N.Y.) Times Union said on its website Tuesday night that David R. Smith, president of SUNY's Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, is on leave and facing scrutiny from SUNY officials. Those officials acted after they "learned he has been padding his state pay without authorization," the newspaper reported, citing two unnamed state officials.

The Times Union said the financial questions were first raised by a Penn State search firm that also works for SUNY.

Dr. Smith could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. David Doyle, SUNY's director of communications, referred to a statement.

It read in part: "Due to an ongoing review of compensation issues at Upstate Medical University, as well as recent health issues, Upstate President Dr. David Smith will be on leave from his duties at this time. The review is an ongoing personnel matter ..."

Penn State declined comment Tuesday.

Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he was not aware of the situation. "If it's true, then the course of action undertaken by the board in delaying confirmation was appropriate ... we have not been briefed on it," he said.

He also said that if true, it is "all the more reason why the full board should be involved in discussions with at least the final three candidates."

Penn State had planned to name its 18th president by this month and had announced a special meeting for last Friday at which the board was expected to name a successor to Rodney Erickson. But it canceled the session a day later amid complaints that not all trustees were in the loop about the search's status.

The board met privately instead Friday, and afterward said the search was proceeding "with vigor." But it made no mention of any potential candidate and instead said it plans to find its new president by the time Mr. Erickson steps down June 30.

The Times Union, citing unidentified individuals the paper said were familiar with the situation, reported that the search firm learned that Mr. Smith, a pediatrician, arranged extra pay through outside firms that have ties to the medical university.

The Times Union said Dr. Smith is paid $625,000 in salary and benefits by SUNY and cited a letter from SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher saying he received $349,295 from the outside sources without her approval.

Bill Schackner:, 412-263-1977 or on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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