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Ousted Cal U chief demands retraction

| Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Leslie Parkinson of California, a retired art professor at California University of Pennsylvania, says she was left ply in debt because the university has paid her only $10,000 of the $160,000 former President Angelo Armenti Jr. promised her to develop eight stained glass windows. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Former California University of Pennsylvania President Angelo Armenti Jr. was fired in May. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Ousted California University of Pennsylvania President Angelo Armenti Jr. is disputing school officials' statements that he acted without authority or funding when he promised a former art professor $160,000 to create eight intricate stained-glass windows.

In a five-page letter sent this week to the school's Council of Trustees and Acting President Geraldine Jones, Armenti said the university's claims were “disgracefully false and defamatory” and demanded a retraction.

Spokeswoman Christine Kindl said Friday the school received Armenti's letter but “the university stands by its statement and has no plans to issue a retraction or an apology.”

At issue is retired professor Leslie Parkinson, 73, who complained recently that she was left deeply in debt because the university has paid her only $10,000 of the $160,000 Armenti promised before he was fired in May. She said she incurred the debt buying supplies to complete the 9-foot windows for the school's administration building.

Kindl told the Tribune-Review last week Armenti “acted wholly without authority and without funding,” in regard to the windows, but said officials would reach out to Parkinson in an attempt to resolve the matter.

Parkinson said a university official left a message for her Thursday, but she had not spoken with them as of Friday.

In an interview Friday with his attorney, former Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani, at his side, Armenti said he was within his rights to commission the work, pointing to state Act 188, a law governing how the 14 commonwealth-run universities function.

In his letter, Armenti cites a section of the act requiring system presidents to “maintain a campus of natural and architectural beauty featuring state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.”

“And that was also exactly what I was doing when I issued my latest commission to Professor Parkinson,” Armenti said.

Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the State System of Higher Education, which enforces Act 188, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Robert Irey, chairman of the university's Council of Trustees, said he became aware of the broken deal when Parkinson wrote a letter to the council requesting payment last year .

“It appears to me that he (Armenti) had the authority and the right to do what he did,” Irey said. “The president has a significant amount of authority.”

Irey said the council does not have the power to authorize any payment to Parkinson.

Armenti said his intent was to “use funds from the quasi-endowment fund for that purpose.” The money was to be drawn from a private account at his discretion, Armenti said.

A single $10,000 payment that Parkinson received was drawn from a Foundation for California University of Pennsylvania account, according to a Feb. 25, 2010 check stub with the notation “costs for materials” that Parkinson produced during a recent interview. The foundation functions independently of the university. Its mission is to solicit money for eight major areas, including scholarships.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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