Capitol Confidential: SUNY President was to Become Penn State President Before Controversy

Details surrounding what happened last week with Penn State’s failed presidential announcement are becoming a little clearer tonight.

According to a report by Capitol Confidential, David R. Smith, the president of the State University of New York’s upstate medical campus, was set to become Penn State’s next president before allegations of financial dishonesty surfaced. The report sources two state officials who claim SUNY learned Smith was padding his state pay without authorization.

This news comes on the heels of Penn State canceling a special Board of Trustees meeting last week in which it was planning to vote on and announce Penn State’s 18th president. Current president Rodney Erickson has announced that he will retire by June 2014, and a small group of trustees have been searching for his replacement since last year.

Smith, a former pediatrician, spent five years as the chancellor of Texas Tech before becoming president of the Upstate Medical University in Syracuse in 2006.

Smith was put on paid leave today as SUNY reviews documents relating to his compensation plan, which allegedly show he received $349,295 in unauthorized benefits. The report alleges that Smith and some members of his executive team may have been receiving unauthorized payment from outside companies in addition to his $625,000 compensation from SUNY.

“SUNY has launched an expedited review regarding compensation issues at Upstate Medical Center,” said SUNY spokesman David Doyle to Capitol Confidential. “This is an ongoing personnel matter and we are awaiting the full findings before reaching a final resolution as deemed appropriate by the Board or the Chancellor.”

While vetting Smith, Penn State’s outside presidential search firm Isaacson Miller uncovered the questionable compensation and alerted SUNY, which led to this investigation. It’s easy to see the fit — more than a quarter of Penn State’s budget is dedicated to the Hershey Medical Center, and Smith’s background in medicine and experience at both the large Texas Tech and concentrated SUNY Upstate Medical make him seem like a qualified candidate. Plus, that mustache is nothing to sneeze at.

Why Penn State decided to announce last weeks’ meeting before it properly vetted Smith’s finances is a mystery to me, but we should be thankful Penn State caught it before the decision became official.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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