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Fired Cal U president sues state system over alleged Sunshine Law violation

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Dr. Angelo Armenti talks with reporters outside Dixson Hall on May 29, 0212 on the California University of Pennsylvania campus.

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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 2:41 a.m.
 

Former California University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Angelo Armenti Jr. has sued the State System of Higher Education.

The Commonwealth Court suit contends the system's board of governors violated the state Sunshine Act, which says the public has the right to be present at all meetings of public agencies and to witness their deliberations and decision-making process.

The system oversees 14 state-owned universities, including Cal U.

In a complaint filed Aug. 13, Armenti contends the board met in secrecy when deliberating whether to fire him. He was the state's longest-tenured president at the time and was in the process of his annual contract evaluation by the board.

The suit claims Armenti was abruptly fired by board Chairman Guido Pichini – also named in the suit – “without notice or cause,” during a brief meeting in May. At the time of his firing, the system stated Armenti was not fired for cause. However, it issued a letter to Armenti on June 1 indicating his termination was “for cause.” The suit claims the board met May 25 to confirm the firing. But that meeting was not properly advertised, the suit claims.

It wasn't until the system complied with Armenti's Right-to-Know requests that he learned of the process used by the board, according to court filings.

The system has failed to provide proper notes of the May 9 and May 25 meetings, as requested by Armenti, the suit claims.

“The State System operated behind closed-doors and under a veil of secrecy intending to deprive Dr. Armenti of any meaningful information concerning the manner in which he was terminated and the reasons underlying it,” Armenti's attorney, Steven M. Toprani, said in a statement.

“The Sunshine Act makes clear that in Pennsylvania, citizens have a right to observe the workings of their government. We intend to show the court that the state system has trampled that right through deliberation and decision making in seclusion. We look forward to compelling the state system to provide the answers to Dr. Armenti that they have sought to conceal, and we will continue to pursue all available remedies.”

State system Spokesman Kenn Marshall said the agency is aware of the suit, adding it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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