Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kaler says he'll limit U's plush pay packages

Bruininks had been criticized for bending U's executive leave policy.

Selected from Star-Tribune:

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler called executive compensation packages signed by his predecessor "very generous" and vowed Tuesday to be more stringent when top officials leave his administration.

"I regret that those past decisions may have hurt the public's trust in our stewardship of this great university," Kaler told a House higher education committee on Tuesday. "My approach will be different."

Legislators requested the hearing after the Star Tribune disclosed that former University President Robert Bruininks signed a series of compensation agreements worth more than $2.8 million that routinely gave leaves to administrators at their executive salaries, even when departing administrators had no intention of returning to the U. In negotiating the deals, Bruininks regularly departed from university policy, often waiving a requirement that executives repay their stipends if they did not return to the faculty.

The memo from Jason Rohloff, Kaler's special assistant for government relations, said the president would testify that he "wasn't here when the decisions were made" and "will stress that, for him, the bar will be set high for any such exceptions."
At the hearing, Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, called the packages "appalling" and "more generous than the private sector."
Norton said that she has agonized over making cuts in state funding to the University of Minnesota. Given that, "to see where that money is going is, frankly, shocking."

Kaler assured legislators that he will make changes and closely follow the policy that outlines administrative leaves. That policy states that "salary and benefits are typically paid at the level of the assumed, or resumed, faculty or professional position rather than at the administrative salary level."
Bruininks arranged for most of his administrators to receive their executive pay while on leave, university documents show.
Also, "the policy is clear that if someone does not return to the university after their sabbatical, the transitional salary must be repaid," Kaler said Tuesday. "I intend to stick to those guidelines."
Kaler noted that his own contract includes a year-long leave at his presidential salary -- now $610,000 a year -- before he steps down to join the faculty. "But if for some reason I do not return to the university, I will pay that money back,'' he said.

During a question-and-answer session after his first State of the University address last week, Kaler was questioned about the packages. Kaler urged students and staff not to judge him against administrative payouts signed before his time.
"I'm a new president," Kaler said. "You watch what I do before you judge how I do it."

The casual reader may ask, "What about Maturi?"  Although I am not happy about that matter either, the issues are not exactly the same. Mr. Maturi is being paid while terminating his business at the University.  I trust that he will in fact be working. Many of the arrangements mentioned above were quite different and indefensible.

Our University of Minnesota supporters at the legislature are put in a bad light by this kind of behavior. It makes it much more difficult for them to advocate for us. 

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