In an unusual footnote to the controversial merger of three state higher education institutions, Community College Chancellor Marc Herzog apparently retired as of May 31, notified his Board of Trustees on June 3 and--it was disclosed Monday--was rehired on a temporary basis effective June 1 for $14,500 a month on top of his $14,000 monthly pension.
Herzog's monthly salary had been $19,400, so the combination of pension and temporary pay effectively boosted his income by more than $9,000 a month.
Word of the arrangement infuriated the Malloy Administration.
"Something like this should never be allowed to happen," said Roy Occhiogrosso, a senior adviser to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, calling it "bloated and inappropriate compensation" and a "misguided decision."
During the 75-minute board meeting Monday, there were lots of farewells to Herzog but no hint of the arrangement that kept him on the job.
After the meeting, however, board chair Louise Berry confirmed that she had used the authority given her in a resolution approved last month by the board to hire Herzog back in what she described as a 30-day "verbal agreement." A spokeswoman the state comptroller's office says his temporary contract allows him to remain for up to 120 days.
Herzog said after the meeting that he didn't publicize his retirement because he didn't want to detract from community college graduations. He said his goal in staying on through June was to ease the transition as the 12-campus community college system merges with the four Connecticut State Universities and the online Charter Oak College under one Board of Regents.
The higher education merger bill doesn't take effect until July 1, and most of the changes will be implemented during the second half of the year, but Herzog said he doesn't plan to stay on past the 30 days cited by Berry.
"Come here July 1 and I won't be here," he insisted.
Berry would not confirm whether she would put in writing that Herzog would remain for only 30-days and not the 120 days he is contractually able to now.
"I am not going to take any action tonight," she said.
Herzog's retirement letter to the board says his decision was motivated not only by the merger but also by possible changes in pension and health care benefits in the concession package being voted on by state employee unions. Rep. Roberta Willis, the co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said she can understand why Herzog decided to leave before the changes would take effect Sept. 1 and his position is eliminated Jan. 1.
"You knew he was going to leave," the Democrat from Salisbury said. "When you are considering retirement you have to take into consideration what is the best financially... I can understand why he would decide to step down at this point."
Willis said it's "tragic" that the focus has turned to how Herzog has elected to leave the system after more than three decades. She said she is grateful he is willing to stay on even temporarily.
"I am surprised he even wants to do that," she said.