Fired California University president defends school's practices


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Fired California University of Pennsylvania president Angelo Armenti Jr., in an undated written statement, defended himself against what he called the "most damaging of the false allegations" presented in an audit critical of the school's financial practices.

Mr. Armenti has not publicly commented on the results of the 25-page report released by state officials on Thursday -- one day after his firing. State officials have not said whether the audit and the firing were related.

The audit, spurred by a series of anonymous complaints sent to the State System of Higher Education, called into question several university expenditures, including debt acquired during the construction of a new $59 million convocation center. It also questioned whether the university and the Foundation for California University were as separate as state law requires and whether net profits from housing facilities were being improperly transferred to the school's fundraising foundation.

In a written statement provided Friday to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by a university source, Mr. Armenti attempted to rebut two of what he called the "rather serious errors of fact, analysis and conclusion" contained in the report.

Auditors preparing the report found that California University development employees, who are paid with university funds, solicited donations for the Foundation for California University and prepared or sent out contribution acknowledgements and tax information.

"Based on information received during the investigation ... the University does not comply with ... the State Adverse Interest Act," which outlines restrictions for public employees and the work they may do, the auditors wrote.

Mr. Armenti, who had served as the school's president since 1992, argued that the university development employees serve as "liaisons" to the Foundation for California University, "meaning they are to keep the lines of communication open with that affiliate so as to better serve our mutual clients."

"No such University employees are in a position of authority, and therefore, no adverse interest arises," he continued.

A spokesman for the state attorney general's office, in keeping with usual practice, declined to say whether members of his office were investigating Mr. Armenti or any others in connection with audit results and the State Adverse Interest Act. Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone could not be reached for comment Friday.

The report also called into question the school's relationship with the California University Student Association Inc., a nonprofit that receives money the school collects through its student activities fees.

Auditors wrote that, per an agreement with the university, the student association receives some of the net profits from housing and gives money each year to the Foundation for California University, which puts the money in an account used "for a quasi-endowed scholarship fund."

The report suggested that the State System for Higher Education's chief legal counsel should review this practice and said "an analysis should also be conducted to determine if current housing fees charged to students are unnecessarily inflated because net profits are being used for scholarships rather than offsetting future housing costs."

Mr. Armenti called the practice "perfectly lawful," saying that while the school collects the fees "up front," they are redistributed and do not fit the definition of "state funds."

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Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438. Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141. First Published May 19, 2012 4:00 AM


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