Higher education official forfeits $49K raise, senator wants all hikes canceled
The second-highest ranking official in the state’s merged public college system will forego a controversial $49,000 pay raise, the system announced Tuesday morning — one day after The Mirror disclosed the pay increase.
Michael P. Meotti, executive vice president for the Board of Regents for Higher Education, will continue to earn $183,339, forfeiting the 27 percent pay bump to $232,244 he had received effective Oct. 5.
A legislative leader critical of Meotti’s raise called Tuesday for the Board of Regents to disclose and reverse any other raises given to system office staff, regardless of whether it was awarded to reflect additional responsibilities or not.
Meanwhile, the board still had not responded by midday Tuesday to requests — filed Friday by The Mirror — for details on others who received raises, how much they were and who approved them.
As for Meotti’s decision to forego the raise: “We appreciate this action, and have agreed to it,” Lewis J. Robinson, the Board of Regents chairman, and Robert A. Kennedy, the president of the system wrote in a joint statement. “The Board of Regents will be reviewing all other personnel salary adjustments that were made on the basis of additional duties, responsibilities, and roles assigned resulting from the consolidation.”
Top administrators for the board did not return multiple phone calls from The Mirror about Meotti’s raise both Friday and Monday.
A brief statement emailed Monday indicated that the raise was part of a larger reorganization effort. But it also referred to multiple salary adjustments, not just one for Meotti.
Asked Tuesday if any other raises have been foregone, Colleen Flanagan Johnson, a spokeswoman for system, said, “No, I do not believe so.”
Flanagan Johnson also said early Tuesday that she would provide the full details on the raises as quickly as possible.
Robinson said during a brief interview Monday that he didn’t know how pay raises in the central office are approved. Several others on the 15-member board referred all questions to Robinson or Kennedy. Robinson called today for the board to meet at 2:30 p.m., Friday.
Bye told Capitol reporters that all savings from the reorganization should be redirected to support academic programs, and that even those administrators asked to take on new responsibilities shouldn’t be receiving pay hikes right now.
“The legislative intent was for those savings to go to the campuses,” she said, adding she understood that to be Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s intent as well. “That was his stated goal. It was our stated goal. Whoever was responsible for this was not respecting those goals.”
When asked Monday for the governor’s reaction to Meotti’s raise, Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said, “The Board of Regents is an independent body, and as such it was their decision to handle the compensation of management in this manner.”
Malloy told WTIC 1080-AM during an event in Plainville this morning that he was not involved in these raises and he does not know who approved them.
“The Regents’ system needs to run itself, but it needs to run itself well and be accountable to the public. And I think this thing is going to turn out OK,” Malloy said. “That is a decision to be made within that system, the Regents system… It needs to be run by the Board of Regents and I think as this thing is playing out it will get to the right result.”
On Meotti’s decision to forfeit the raise, Malloy said, “I think that that’s probably the right thing.”
Bye and Willis continued to press Tuesday for clarification on how the raises were approved, noting they think that pay raises should be a decision for the appointed Board of Regents.
“This still doesn’t address how it happened in the first place,” Willis said Tuesday.
“This is a misstep. I know there were board members that were upset about this and that they should have had a vote,” said Bye. “That is the public oversight we need.”
State law provides that, “The president may employ staff as is deemed necessary, including, but not limited to, temporary assistants and consultants. The board shall establish terms and conditions of employment of its staff, prescribe their duties and fix the compensation of its professional and technical personnel.”
The appointed board’s bylaws reads, “There shall be an executive staff responsible for the operation of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. The executive staff shall be under the direction of the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, who shall be the chief executive officer of the Board of Regents for Higher Education and shall administer, coordinate and supervise the activities of the board in accordance with the policies established by the board. (b) The president may employ staff as is deemed necessary, including, but not limited to, temporary assistants and consultants. The board shall establish terms and conditions of employment of its staff, prescribe their duties and fix the compensation of its professional and technical personnel.”
Bye and Willis added that they have written and contacted the board Tuesday to receive clarification on who approved raises for Meotti and any other system office staff.
“Someone gave the raises… The two-to-three days of not responding to the press only makes things worse,” Bye told reporters in the state Capitol Tuesday. “I think someone should get back quickly to the media.”
Bye would not rule out legislative hearings to learn how these raises were authorized.
“It is completely unconscionable… I don’t think you can legislate common sense,” she said.
Asked if the board approved the raises, Flanagan Johnson said, “Let me double-check on that.”
Bye called Meotti’s decision to forego his 27 percent raise “appropriate in these times.”
Willis responded, “What about the other raises?”
The co-chairwomen said Monday that, given the sacrifices students, state employees and others have made in recent years, none of the savings from the Board of Regents’ consolidation should have been redirected into raises.
Bye said she was “outraged” by Meotti’s raise.
Most state employees are in the second year of a two-year wage freeze ordered by the concessions agreement negotiated by Malloy and state worker union leaders. All but two bargaining units accepted the freeze, thereby exempting them from layoffs through the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The consolidation, according to the board, reduced overall costs this fiscal year by $5.5 million. And Robinson and Kennedy’s statement Tuesday again trumpeted those savings.
An apology to the community college presidents
The board also expressed regret Tuesday over misunderstandings tied to recent news that 12 community college presidents are being offered an “expedite[d]” dismissal from their post. Policy requires that college presidents who have been with the system for more than three years be given a 12-month notice, with pay, if they will no longer run the school. Policy also allows for an “accelerated” payment of that 12 months’ pay.
“It’s important to us to apologize for any miscommunication that has occurred between the Board of Regents’ central office and the community college presidents,” the statement read.
“In trying to provide any community college presidents who do not support our change agenda a way in which to depart amicably, it was instead mistaken for a buyout or, worse, a push-out. That was never the intention, and for that, we apologize.”
Bye was also critical of the communication on the future of the presidents.
“It was really mishandled,” she said.
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