A member and former chairman of the Penn State board of trustees resigned on Thursday, becoming the first board member to do so in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Steve Garban said in a letter his presence on the board had become “a distraction and an impediment” to its efforts to move forward.
Garban was harshly criticized over his handling of the crisis that engulfed Penn State after Sandusky’s arrest last November, and he faced persistent calls from alumni and fellow board members to step down.
An internal investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found that Garban was briefed twice about developments in the Sandusky case but didn’t share what he knew with the entire board, depriving trustees of a chance to prepare for the worst crisis in Penn State’s 157-year history.
Freeh’s 267-page report portrayed a disengaged board that handed too much responsibility to the university president and failed to investigate deeply enough once it became aware of a grand jury probe.
After the report’s release, trustees accepted responsibility for a failure of oversight and said they were “deeply ashamed.” Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz, who announced Garban’s resignation in a letter on the board’s website, said at the time that no trustee would step down, however.
Garban didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night.
While Garban is the first trustee to resign in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, he’s not the first board casualty. Incumbent trustee Anne Riley lost re-election last spring as alumni upset over the board’s handling of the crisis picked three new trustees — all of whom campaigned on a reform platform — to sit on the 32-member panel.
A 1959 Penn State graduate, Garban worked at the university for 33 years, the last 12 as treasurer and senior vice president of finance and operations. Alumni first elected him to the board of trustees in 1998, and he began his fifth three-year term in 2010.