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Auditor recommends changes in Penn State governance

By Mark Shade

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Pennsylvania's elected fiscal watchdog is calling for sweeping changes in the way Penn State University governs itself following the child sexual abuse conviction of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The university should strip the president of some powers, shrink the school's board of trustees, and make the school more transparent to the public, Auditor General Jack Wagner said on Wednesday in a report offering nonbinding recommendations.

The university's image was tarnished by the Sandusky scandal and criminal charges of cover-up by Penn State leaders, including former President Graham Spanier.

"By its very design, the structure of Penn State's governance vests too much control and power in the position of university president, no matter who held that position in the past or who holds it now," Wagner, a Democrat, said in his report.

Sandusky, 68, is serving 30 to 60 years in a maximum-security prison for molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, some in the campus football showers.

Spanier, former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz will face a preliminary hearing next month in Harrisburg on child endangerment, perjury, criminal conspiracy, failure to report suspected child abuse and obstruction charges in connection with the Sandusky case.

"We call for reforming the conflicted and contradictory structure by which the president holds plural roles that compromise reporting relationships and undercut the board's ability to govern as leaders," Wagner said.

Wagner said the Penn State president wields too much authority because he is a voting member of the board of trustees and is a member of "almost every board committee."

The board of trustees, Wagner said, should also be reduced from 32 to 22 members, with one of those members, the Pennsylvania governor, serving as a non-voting member.

The university welcomed Wagner's recommendations but had no other comment, Penn State spokesman David La Torre said.

"The university only just received the report but will conduct a thorough review," La Torre said.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham)

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