College system chief to release officials’ raises

After denying The Mirror’s requests for a list of salaries of the top university officials slated for raises this month, the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education said Wednesday he’d release the information.

“My fear is it’s getting out of hand,” President Gregory Gray said Wednesday.

Two leaders of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee and an open government group publicly criticized the system’s decision, reported in a story in The Mirror, to keep the raises a secret.

“I can’t remember anyone ever withholding salaries,” said James H. Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information and editor of a number of state newspapers for four decades.

When it comes to balancing an employee’s right to privacy and the public’s right to information, Smith pointed to the “Perkins test,” named after a legal decision that set the precedent on when an employee’s information must be publicly disclosed. That decision established a two-part test for public entities to consider: Is the information of public interest? and, Would the information be highly offensive to the worker if it were released? If it’s in the public’s interest and not offensive, then it’s public.

“Salaries are public information,” Smith said.

But Gray said Wednesday he is not convinced, although he said he would release the current salaries now and will release the size of the raises to be awarded Dec. 27.

“I am still not clear if we are legally obliged to do this or not. However, as I continue further discussions with our Board of Regents, one of the things I wanted to do in my era of being president is restore trust and total integrity in the system, and that means total transparency. Therefore, we decided based on that very important thing — weighing the privacy issue versus the paramount issue of transparency — we have now provided this information,” Gray said.

The 278 officials and administrators could have as much as a 6.5 percent raise this fiscal year. Regardless of what they’re earning now, their salaries will rise by 3 percent to reflect cost-of-living increases; and, all are eligible for an additional 3.5 percent merit raise following their evaluations.

(See the current salaries of the 278 managers and administrators eligible for raises here. Salaries are after their 3 percent cost-of-living adjustments.)

Officials for the 92,000-student system — comprising 17 state colleges and universities — said last week that they cannot release size of the raises because state law forbids the release of an employee’s evaluation without his or her consent. A spokeswoman said last week that because the public would be able to figure out easily how big of a raise an employee received after his or hir evaluation, that would effectively be releasing the evaluation. That decision followed a recommendation by the system’s legal counsel.

“We were fearful that in doing so we were jeopardizing their right to privacy,” Gray said this week. “There was no deliberate intention to hide anything.”

Gray said he is confident his employees will understand his decision to release the information at this point.

“I understand pay is a sensitive issue, but, indeed, the pay situation we are talking about is well deserved on the part of our employees. It is allowing us to reward excellent performance,” Gray said, noting that many of the employees have not received a raise in two years.

The raises also come as all union employees in the system were eligible for the same percentage raises, and as the system grapples with deficits and is scaling back courses and the hiring of full-time faculty. 

The University of Connecticut, the state’s other public college system, provided information to The Mirror Tuesday on the size of its officials’ merit raises.

Current salary of managers and administrators eligible for raises.

State law.