EWA 2012 Investigative Reporting

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What brought down Kennedy and Meotti?

Reorganizing the state universities and community colleges may have been Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s idea, but handpicking who would lead the merged, 100,000-student system wasn’t his call — at least not according to the legislators who crafted the merger bill. That didn’t stop the governor, whose selection of Robert Kennedy in the summer of 2011 was the first in a series of aggressive moves that would spark questions this fall over who truly ran the new system. The governor also created a high-salary, top-tier position not included in the statute and crafted a five-year deal with Kennedy even before the new Board of Regents for Higher Education was fully assembled. Those actions ultimately would test more than the spirit of the law, complicating Malloy’s efforts to distance himself this fall as new controversies embarrassed the system and cost his top appointees their jobs. And while the administration insists Malloy’s actions were handled properly during a very confusing time of transition, they also have sparked a bipartisan call to consider reducing the governor’s control going forward. Continue Reading →

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A closer look at Connecticut’s higher education salaries

The Malloy administration insists that the $410,000 compensation package it awarded in 2011 to the former president of the state’s college system was competitive. “This was very moderate in comparison” to other public college systems, Mark Ojakian, the governor’s chief of staff, said recently. Robert A. Kennedy resigned as president in October after a series of controversies; the amount of his compensation was one thing that lawmakers and others had criticized. But the median pay for presidents of institutions that grant master’s degrees is $272,500 — two-thirds the salary Kennedy received, according to a national association that monitors higher education workplace issues, including salaries. The Board of Regents has named a committee to search for the next president of the higher education system and to determine the size and contents of his or her compensation package. Continue Reading →

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Embattled Board of Regents chief resigns

Robert A. Kennedy, the embattled president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, announced his resignation Friday morning, effective immediately. Kennedy, who was recruited last year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to lead the new consolidation of the higher education system, bowed to mounting pressure for his resignation after disclosures he unilaterally approved executive pay raises without board approval. “The issues with which we’ve dealt over the past few days have become a distraction to that important work, and, as an educator all my life, the most important thing to me is the success and support of our students,” Kennedy said. “For that reason, I believe my resignation will allow the critical issues of the Board and its agenda to be addressed in a different light than they might otherwise be.” In resigning a day after bipartisan legislative calls for his depature, Kennedy was showing the political sensitivity he acknowledged lacking when he awarded raises, including $48,000 to his executive vice president, at a time when other state employees face a pay freeze. Continue Reading →

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Meotti: Second higher education casualty

Michael P. Meotti, executive vice president of the Board of Regents of Higher Education — and the focus of the pay-raise scandal that slammed the department this week — became the second top official to resign Friday. Earlier, Robert A. Kennedy, president of higher education’s central office, announced his resignation. The resignations follow confirmation that Kennedy had unilaterally approved pay raises for 21 higher education officials this year in violation of state law. Meotti’s 26 percent raise was $48,000 and awarded at a time when most state employees were in the second year of a wage freeze. Meotti was also involved in the system office offering the local community college presidents “expedite[d]” departures. Continue Reading →

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New questions follow an educator’s apology

Hartford — The head of the state’s higher-education system apologized Wednesday for the hefty raises he unilaterally awarded to top staff, but he immediately was confronted with new questions about six weeks he spent working remotely from a second home in Minnesota over the summer. Robert A. Kennedy, the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, said he erred procedurally and politically in awarding 21 raises, including $48,000 for his executive vice president, Michael P. Meotti. All the raises are suspended, and Meotti will be refunding his raise. Attorney General George Jepsen said he has not been asked for a formal opinion on the propriety of the raises, but he indicated that they probably were inappropriate. “The statute governing the Board of Regents provides that the ‘board shall fix compensation of its professional and technical personnel.’ Continue Reading →

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Higher education chief ‘mistakenly’ ordered 21 executive raises without board approval

The state’s merged public college system backpedaled Tuesday as its top executive announced that 21 raises he “mistakenly” authorized during the past 10 months would be reassessed by its governing board. That includes the $49,000 increase granted recently to Michael P. Meotti, the executive vice president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. Meotti announced earlier Tuesday he would forfeit the increase and return his annual salary to $183,339. The 21 pay hikes ordered between Dec. 20, 2011, and Sept. Continue Reading →

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Double-digit raise goes to top higher ed official

A top administrator in Connecticut’s merged public college system received a nearly $49,000 pay increase last week — a move that members of its governing board could not explain Monday, even as most state employees remain under a wage freeze. And while top administrators for the Board of Regents for Higher Education failed to return multiple phone calls from The Mirror, a brief emailed statement indicated that the 27 percent bump given to Executive Vice President Michael P. Meotti was part of a larger reorganization effort. The increase, which The Mirror confirmed with State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo, also sparked an angry response Monday from leaders of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, who called it inappropriate given the state’s budget woes and recent cutbacks in student aid. Meotti, whose annual pay was $183,339, would earn $232,244 over the coming 12 months based on the new rate implemented Friday, according to the comptroller’s office. It was unclear Friday or Monday how the increase for Meotti was approved, or how many others received compensation hikes. Continue Reading →

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