HARRISBURG, Pa. – The two highest-ranking leaders on Penn State University's board said Thursday a fellow trustee should immediately step down over comments aimed at people he described as "so-called victims" of Jerry Sandusky.
Chairman Ira Lubert and Vice Chairman Mark Dambly called trustee Al Lord's comments offensive and embarrassing to the board majority, the university community and sexual assault victims.
"We strongly condemn them," Lubert and Dambly said in a statement sent to reporters by the university's office of strategic communications. "Members of this board must hold themselves to a higher standard and represent our university with respect for all."
Lord did not return a phone message seeking comment.
His remarks were sent to a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education shortly after former university president Graham Spanier's trial ended with a misdemeanor conviction last month. Lord has been a supporter of Spanier's and attended the trial.
Lord is part of a bloc of nine alumni-elected trustees who have repeatedly clashed with the board majority over the university's response to the Sandusky scandal. Sandusky's arrest and 2012 conviction for 45 counts of child sexual abuse has sharply divided the university community.
"Once again, we have a group of trustees stomping on our freedom of speech rights," said alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano, a Lord ally. "Al Lord made a comment that was very personal, well within his right. And I think Al should stay on the board until the conclusion of his term."
Lord, a retired bank executive, announced during a Wednesday candidates' forum that he was no longer seeking a second term on the Penn State board. Ballots go out next week in an election that runs through May 4. Lord's term expires June 30. Among those running is Jay Paterno, the son of former head coach Joe Paterno, who was Sandusky's boss for decades.
Lord told the Chronicle after Spanier's conviction that he was "running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth." He followed that with a statement earlier this week to the Penn State student newspaper that apologized for "any pain the comment may have caused actual victims."
The university has paid out more than $90 million to settle with at least 33 people who had claims of abuse at Sandusky's hands, one of the issues that has divided the university board.
A jury on March 24 convicted Spanier of misdemeanor child endangerment over his handling of a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy.
Two of Spanier's former top lieutenants who also were involved in dealing with the 2001 complaint, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, struck plea deals to misdemeanor child endangerment charges and testified for the prosecution. All three await sentencing.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012 and was not accused of any crime. Sandusky is appealing his conviction.