Last week it was the resignation of the President and Executive Vice President of Connecticut’s new Board of Regents, the group responsible for overseeing the merged system of Connecticut’s State Universities and Community and Technical Colleges.
The solution, we were told, was that the actual Board of Regents would step forward, take control and actually perform the duties allocated to them under state law.
At their first meeting, they reinstate the inappropriate and previously illegal raises for the Vice President for State Universities and the Vice President for Community Colleges.
Then they hire, as expected, former UConn President Phil Austin to run the Board of Regents.
The Board of Regents votes to give interim President Austin a base salary of $340,000, but say they are withholding any of the extra benefits that pushed up the previous president, Robert Kennedy’s salary, by about $100,000.
Austin’s current base salary at the University of Connecticut is in the range of $285,000.
However, in 2010, Austin actually had a salary and compensation package of $419,000 and last year, Austin’s package was over $427,700.
So what gives?
The actual contract the Board of Regents approved doesn’t actually line up with what the Board of Regents reported to the media and the public
Austin’s contract with the Board of Regents reads, “The President shall receive all normal Board of Regents benefits, including, but not limited to, health insurance for the President and any dependents, dental insurance, retirement plans, deferred compensation plans, flexible spending accounts, vacation and sick leave.”
First off, as an employee of the University of Connecticut, Mr. Austin already gets more than $50,000 in non-salary benefits. Some of those benefits may very well continue, even if Austin takes a full unpaid leave of absence from UConn. However, even if he gives up those benefits from UConn, the cost to the Board of Regents to provide “all normal Board of Regents benefits” will be as much, if not more, depending on how the Regent’s policy handles deferred compensation and vacation and sick leave.
Normally, items such as vacation and sick leave are provided to full-time, year-round employees and not professors, meaning that in addition to his base salary of $340,000 and his $50,000 or so in benefits, Austin could actually find his total compensation package going even higher under the wording of the Regent’s contract.
As the CT Mirror reported, the Regents proudly proclaimed that although Austin, “will be making the same $340,000 annual salary as his predecessor — but none of the additional lucrative incentives — in exchange for leading the state’s embattled, merged public college system on a temporary basis.”
That statement is simply not true.
Worse, as the CTMirror went on to explain, “The regents approved Austin’s pay without public discussion following a one-hour-and-40-minute closed-door session.”
Didn’t these people learn anything from the initial catastrophe?
With no public discussion, there is no public record, which means there is absolutely no public accountability about how these compensation issues might be interpreted.
As the Mirror reported, the “Chair of the Board of Regents explained that “Austin did not seek any compensation beyond the $340,000 annual pay that had been granted to Kennedy.”
Of course he didn’t ask for more, because he didn’t need to ask for any more. Much of it was already part of the basic compensation package that came with the contract.
Finally, there is an additional benefit in the Austin contract that he never had under any contract with the University. The contract approved for Austin reads, “The Board of Regents shall, with prior approval of the Board, within available appropriations and in accordance with the policies of the Board of Regents, reimburse the President for professional development that is appropriate and in the best interest of the system as determined by the Board of Regents and such necessary travel expenses associated with professional development.”
While it is unclear what such language might possibly mean, one thing is for certain; UConn’s presidential contract has no language to “reimburse the President for professional development that is appropriate and in the best interest of the system.”
So the Board of Regents can claim all they want that their new contract isn’t like the one that Governor Malloy’s Office negotiated with Kennedy, but Austin is walking away with a lot more than the $340,000 “base salary” that the Board mentioned.