State claims it had cause for ouster of Cal U's Armenti
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The State System of Higher Education announced for the first time on Monday that former California University of Pennsylvania president Angelo Armenti Jr.'s firing on May 16 was for cause, a designation meaning the former president stands to lose more than $340,000 in salary.
A statement released late in the afternoon shed no further light on why the State System's board of governors ousted Mr. Armenti, 72, whose 20-year tenure at Cal U was longest among the systems 14 sitting university presidents.
The firing came one day before the State System released results of a complaint investigation by system auditors that questioned certain Cal U financial practices. However, system officials have not linked that investigation to Mr. Armenti's departure.
Monday's statement also said State System leaders will not attend tonight's Cal U council of trustees meeting set for 7 p.m. in Old Main on campus. Council members had sought a meeting with those officials to hear reasons for the firing. Word those officials will be no-shows did not sit well with at least one member.
State Rep. Peter Daley, D-Fayette-Washington and a Cal U trustee, called Monday's statement by system officials "an outrageous display of their arrogance" and said he may introduce a resolution calling for a House investigation of Mr. Armenti's firing and the role played by State System chancellor John Cavanaugh and the board of governors.
Mr. Armenti's yearly salary was $227,160 under a contract that runs through June 2014. Based on the contract's language, Mr. Armenti would have been entitled to the remaining two years of salary plus about six weeks' pay were he fired without cause. But a firing for cause reduces the salary payout to six months pay or $113,580, according to the State System.
"Dr. Angelo Armenti Jr. has received formal notification that his termination as president of California University of Pennsylvania effective May 16, 2012, was for cause," said the statement issued by State System spokesman Kenn Marshall. "The notification was contained in a certified letter sent on Friday to Dr. Armenti and signed by Guido M. Pichini, chair of the State System's Board of Governors, which took the action, and State System Executive Vice Chancellor Dr. Peter H. Garland."
In addition to six months' pay and insurance benefits, the statement said Mr. Armenti "also is eligible for all post-employment benefits for which he qualifies based on his years of service.
"Other than Dr. Armenti's employment contract, there is no other agreement between the State System and the former president," the statement added.
Mr. Armenti, reached by phone, said he received no such letter from the State System either Friday or in the days since, and was learning specifics of it for the first time from a reporter.
"What have I done to deserve this" he asked, referring to the system's statement.
The former president has defended his record and the university's financial policies and said the auditors issued seriously flawed findings that were used as a pretext to remove him.
"I believe there is something else going on here," he said. "I think the board [of governors] can't make up its mind why they fired me and they don't want to answer any questions.
"I think Mr. Pichini was very concerned about having to face trustees and reporters," Mr. Armenti said. "I'm going to suggest to you that if they actually had a cause, why wouldn't they say it? They're obviously not concerned about my reputation. They fired me with five minutes notice."
Mr. Armenti, who contends he initially was fired without cause, accuses the State System of tying his remaining two years of salary to whether or not he sues. He said he spoke by phone with the State System's chief legal counsel, Leonidas Pandeladis, the day after being fired and asked when he could expect his remaining salary.
"He said I would get that payment but only if I didn't litigate. If I did litigate, the board would then change its tune and say that I had been fired for cause," Mr. Armenti wrote in a May 21 letter to Mr. Pichini.
The State System had no comment on that claim and offered no response Monday to either Mr. Armenti's comments or Mr. Daley's suggestion he make seek a House investigation.
"The focus now must be on the transition of leadership at Cal U and on the university's future," the statement said. "With that in mind, and with Dr. Armenti alluding to the possibility of litigation in the future, it would be neither prudent nor beneficial to engage in any additional discussions regarding his termination. Because of all of these factors, System officials will not meet tomorrow with the university's Council of Trustees."
The State System's statement also said that "with Dr. Armenti alluding to the possibility of litigation in the future, it would be neither prudent nor beneficial to engage in any additional discussions regarding his termination. Because of all of these factors, System officials will not meet tomorrow with the university's Council of Trustees."
First Published June 5, 2012 12:00 am