For individuals and groups who have urged the state's flagship public university to conduct more business publicly in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, the news today could be mixed.
On the one hand, a recently created compensation committee of Penn State University's board of trustees plans to review and vote on draft operating guidelines requiring it to regularly approve by public vote the total compensation for nine top university executives.
But Penn State also says the actual pay amounts and benefits for those individuals set by the votes will not be disclosed -- at least not immediately, and perhaps not for months or longer.
At issue are nine executives just below president described in those guidelines as being in tiers II and IIA of the university's leadership.
The positions include: executive vice president and provost, senior vice president for business and finance-treasurer, senior vice president for health affairs, senior vice president for development and alumni, vice president and general counsel, athletic director, men's football coach, men's basketball coach and women's basketball coach.
On Saturday, Penn State's compensation committee met and approved a contract for Penn State's new football coach, James Franklin. Though the committee's guidelines were not yet in place, the university said it was decided the hiring warranted a public action by the committee.
Later that day, the university detailed Mr. Franklin's $4 million pay package.
Asked Wednesday how the committee would proceed in similar votes going forward under the guidelines as proposed, spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz said by email:
"Though the Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation will take public action in approving total compensation for executives in tiers II and IIA, details of those agreements will be discussed in executive sessions as permitted by the Sunshine Law.
"The committee will publicly discuss and guide the continued development of Penn State's overall executive compensation strategy, however, details about total compensation offered to individual executives is considered to be sensitive, competitive information and will not be disclosed."
In a later email response to follow-up questions, Ms. Mountz said she could not speak for the committee or predict prior to this morning's meeting if changes to the guidelines would occur. Today's committee meetings at University Park in advance of Friday's full board meeting.
Although exempt from most of the state's Right to Know Law, Penn State must disclose in a once-yearly report the total compensation given its five highest paid nonofficer employees and identify the 25 highest salaried nonofficer employees and what their salaries are. Depending on what they earn and their title, at least partial compensation for many or all of the tier II and IIA executives would be disclosed in that report, but it could be months after their pay is set.
The draft guidelines say the committee would recommend to the full trustees board the pay package for Penn State's president. Ms. Mountz did not know if the president's pay would be disclosed either by the committee or by the full board, and she directed further questions to this morning's meeting.
Individual pay and benefits university-wide would be public if Penn State were fully covered by the state Right to Know Law. Advocates including state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County, whose legislation would fully extend the law to Penn State, said the public ought to have a right to know how a public university receiving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spends its money.
Barry Kauffman, executive director of Pennsylvania Common Cause, said the amounts ought to be public at the time the vote occurs. "For all the trouble [Penn State has] gotten into the last couple years, you would think they would want to be forthcoming," he said.
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 or on Twitter @mdent05. First Published January 15, 2014 11:16 PM