MO Statehouse: Univ. contract review
2:51 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Mo. state auditor has concerns about some university contracts

Mo. state auditor Tom Schweich says contracts between five state universities and former presidents may not be in the best interest of the schools, and some may violate provisions of state law.

Schweich, a Republican, reviewed the contracts for the four chancellors of the University of Missouri system and the state's nine other four-year public institutions. While the report found that most of the contracts were reasonable, some "did not adequately protect the university and contained provisions that appeared excessive or unwarranted."

The findings include:

  • Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis entered into a contract in August 2010 with departing president Henry Givens under which Givens would serve two years as an advisor for $70,000 a year. He also received lifetime eligibility for the university's health and life insurance programs. During that time, Givens would research and write a partial history of the school, assist in fundraising, and advise on legislative and campus expansion matters. Though Givens told the auditor his compensation would come from private funds, the report questioned whether the services Givens would be required to provide in the two years justified "the compensation to be paid or lifetime benefits of health, long-term care, and life insurance to be provided at university expense.
  • Barbara Dixon, the former president of Truman State University in Kirksville, resigned that position in September 2008 over a dispute between she and the Board of Governors. Under the separation agreement, Dixon would receive just over $205,000 to serve as a consultant to the board. She was also entitled to an additional $10,000 and six additional months of health insurance if she performed her job satisfactorily. University officials told the auditor's office that Dixon received he additional $10,000 but not the extra months of health insurance. The report noted the reason for the separation agreement (the university was in the midst of a capital campaign and wanted to avoid bad publicity) but questioned whether the limited duties Dixon performed justified her being paid an additional year of her base salary.
  • In 2010, Michael Nietzel, the former president of Missouri State University in Springfield, resigned his position and took a semester of paid leave to serve as an educational adviser to Gov. Jay Nixon. When Nietzel returned to campus as a psychology professor, he received almost $68,000 more as the next-highest-paid, tenured professor in the department.
  • The long-time president of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Julio Leon, resigned in September 2007 after a total of 38 years of service to the school. In 2008, he received a $168,518 payment - his base salary as president. The separation agreement also stated that Leon would receive the title of "President Emeritus" and be given a faculty office and computer. Schweich's report says the university did not adequately respond to a letter that questioned whether the payment was in the best interest of Missouri Souther.
  • A contract that Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville signed with former president Dean L. Hubbard, who resigned in July 2009 after serving 25 years as president, entitled him to his annual salary of $224,762 for the year after he resigned.  The contract did not outline the specific services Hubbard was to provide. The report also noted that Dr. Hubbard and his spouse received health and accident insurance through the university for two years after his resignation. The university also spent about $9,000 to relocate Dr. Hubbard to Kansas City. The report noted that Dr. Hubbard provided some services to the university in the year transition between himself and his successor, but "it is not clear to what extent those services benefited or assisted the university's new leadership or whether the services justified the salary and benefits provided."

Schweich noted that the presidents at Northwest Missouri, Missouri Southern, and Harris-Stowe, had served the university for extended periods, and that the contracts may have been a reward for the lengthy tenure. But the state Constitution, the review says, prohibits compensation for service already rendered.