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Attorney general, Hershey Trust reach agreement, closing investigation

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State Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the Hershey Trust Co. have reached agreement on a package of reforms to the trust's governance and operations.

The agreement closes the state's multi-year investigation into the trust and its administration of the Milton Hershey School, Kane said in a statement.

The attorney general's office began its probe of the trust in 2010, reacting in part to the trust's 2006 purchase of the former Wren Dale Golf Course.

The trust paid twice the value of the land in a transaction that benefited former member Richard Lenny, who owned a stake in the property, according to court documents.

Nevertheless, the investigation determined the transaction "was consistent with the property's fair market value," according to a statement. The state did not find "any evidence sufficient to establish the breach of fiduciary duties," the statement said.

"We are pleased that the Attorney General concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Board," Robert Cavanaugh, chairman of the school and trust boards, said in a statement. "We believe that the decision to purchase this property was the right decision for the long-term future of the school."

The agreed changes include the following, according to a statement from Kane's office:

• Limitations on school and trust board members serving on the boards of The Hershey Co. and The Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Co. No more than three school or trust board members may serve on The Hershey Co. board, no more than one may serve on the entertainment and resort firm's board, and none may serve on both.

• Board pay levels have been reduced to the "low end" of comparable boards nationwide. Changes to pay will be determined by an outside consultant chosen with guidance from the attorney general's office.

• Board members must disclose "all actual or potential conflicts of interest" with Milton Hershey School or Hershey Trust Co.

• The school and trust must notify the attorney general's office 30 days in advance of any real estate deal worth more than $250,000, or a lease lasting more than three years.

• Hershey Trust Co. must implement policies to monitor and control board travel and expenses.

The attorney general's office said it will receive annual written reports documenting the trust's compliance.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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