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University execs’ deferred pay, often hidden, tops $7 million


wayne cloughBy JIM WALLS

Oct. 5, 2009 — When Wayne Clough left for the Smithsonian last year, he drove off from Georgia Tech with $1.8 million in deferred pay, behind the wheel of a 2007 Lexus hybrid SUV given to him by the school’s foundation.

Carl Patton got a similarly sweet seven-figure deal in January when he retired from Georgia State University.

And UGA president Michael Adams has at least $1.5 million in deferred pay waiting whenever he moves on — half of it residing with the foundation that tried to dump him five years ago.

All told, presidents of seven Georgia universities and the current and former chancellors have collected or accrued more than $7 million since 2004 in deferred compensation, Atlanta Unfiltered has found in a review of payroll records, tax forms and financial statements.

News of the deferred compensation comes as state universities struggle with cost-cutting that has eliminated hundreds of jobs and furloughed virtually all employees for six days or more this year without pay. Officials say the deferred pay is considered a flat amount and is not reduced by the furlough days.

As a practical matter, much of the deferred pay is hidden from public view.

A summary of presidents’ state-paid salaries is available for the asking from the University System’s press office. But that’s if you know who to ask. And it overlooks millions of dollars held by private foundations that have historically paid for perks and salary supplements.

carl pattonCarl Patton pocketed $412,000 in fiscal year 2008 in salary and benefits, according to www.Open.Georgia.Gov — the State Auditor’s official source for information on state employees’ pay. But records show Patton was collecting an additional $300,000 a year in deferred pay, not counting his pension, that the Open Georgia Web site does not disclose.

By the time Patton stepped down in 2008, the state had paid him $1.66 million in deferred salary — information that is unavailable on Open Georgia. (Patton’s successor, Mark Becker, receives no deferred compensation, officials say.)

At Macon State College, Open Georgia reported President David Bell earned $212,409 in fiscal year 2008. But the state paid him another $33,333 a year in deferred compensation, records show, and the college’s foundation has chipped in $400,000 more, payable in January 2010.

Nor does Open Georgia report deferred pay of $30,000 a year for Kennesaw State’s Dan Papp (rising to $50,000 in 2010) or $30,000 a year for Beheruz Sethna at the University of West Georgia.

State auditors ask that agencies report deferred compensation each year, as it accrues, as part of the total pay for affected employees. (Open Georgia lists salaries for the presidents of UGA, the Medical College of Georgia and West Georgia University that appear to include deferred amounts.)

But some universities haven’t done that. Several don’t report deferred pay to the auditors until the money is actually handed over to the president.

“Somebody has to actually get a check for it to appear,” said John Millsaps, the University System’s associate vice chancellor for media and publications.

Auditors rely on reporting agencies for accuracy. “We do not test it in order to determine the validity of what they submit,” said Claire Arnold, the State Auditor’s manager over colleges and universities.

Open Georgia also does not report deferred pay held by several foundations that support universities, since it’s not taxpayer money.

Sometimes, even the foundations aren’t clear about past payments for deferred compensation. Financial statements for the University System of Georgia Foundation show $271,453 spent on deferred compensation for the three fiscal years spanning most of Chancellor Thomas Meredith’s tenure. But executive director Candace Sommers earlier today was still trying to track down records that would show who collected that deferred pay.

With staff turnover and a recent change in bookkeeping software, Sommers said, “researching such information can be challenging.”

All this means Georgia taxpayers can’t get a clear sense of executive compensation in the University System without digging through audited financial statements or payroll records.

Until 2004, foundations supporting several Georgia universities paid these salary supplements. The State Board of Regents ended the practice in the wake of a nasty battle between Adams and the UGA Foundation, which threatened to dock his pay because trustees blamed him for running off beloved ex-coach and athletic director Vince Dooley.

Since then, the state has taken responsibility for all salary payments. But the new policy does not affect certain perks or money that foundations had already set aside for presidents’ deferred pay.


Here’s how much university presidents have accumulated or collected in deferred pay since 2004, according to records provided by the University System, tax returns and financial statements. The figures reflect payments or set-asides of state money and, where known, of funds from a school’s associated foundation.

$1,820,697Wayne Clough, former Georgia Tech president (includes $500,000 cash, a $38,000 car and a split-dollar life insurance policy valued at $750,000 from the foundation)

$1,666,639Carl Patton, retired Georgia State University president

$1,573,606Michael Adams, UGA president (includes $786,106 due from the UGA Foundation as of June 2008)

$600,000David Bell, Macon State University president (includes $400,000 due from the Macon State foundation)

$495,990Thomas Meredith, former University System chancellor (includes $180,990 from the University System of Georgia Foundation)

$480,000Daniel Rahn, Medical College of Georgia president

$262,500Erroll B. Davis Jr., University System chancellor

$127,000Beheruz Sethna, University of West Georgia president

$90,000 — Dan Papp, Kennesaw State University foundation

$75,000 — Bud Peterson, Georgia Tech president since April 1

$7,191,432 Total


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9 Responses to “University execs’ deferred pay, often hidden, tops $7 million”

  1. Neal Smith says:

    And this is a surprise to anyone? Higher education is run like a corporation so why expect that administrators not be paid like corporate executives? Blue smoke and mirrors are de rigueur in business, politics, and medicine, so why should higher education be any different? The top-level administrators at all Georgia colleges and universities, public and private, have largely adopted the fundamental operating assumption of corporate America that is all about the bottom line. Don’t kid yourself that the silver-backed males that are the top-level administrators have a deep concern about the quality of education your sons or daughters, it is all about the money. So long as the institution is in the black, through tuition and extramural funding, these kinds of excesses will continue. Even in times of financial crises, administrators will feign poverty driving their Toyota Priuses, but trust me that is just a front. When will these excesses stop? Likely never and only if there is a culture wide realization that 4-year colleges and universities are not for everyone. Excessive compensation for administrators should be shunted into salaries for the people who really make the institutions run, the instructors, librarians, secretaries, janitorial staff, and maintenance personnel. Of course, one can never return to the old days, but a short trip back in time would be delightful, to the day when football coaches did not make multi-million dollar salaries with signing and retention bonuses, college football players were only paid a modest allowance under the table by alums, and the quality of faculty was not judged by the amount of money they could generate.

  2. JTSmith (Macon State Alumni) says:

    So this means when I get a call from a Macon State student asking for a donation to the Macon State Foundation for which I am made to believe goes toward “scholarships” is actually how the Macon State Foundation is funding Dr. David Bell’s $600,000 “golden parachute”??. Sounds like the BOARD OF REGENTS IS OUR GEORGIA AIG!!! WHAT IS THE GOVERNOR DOING ABOUT THIS CORRUPTION????

  3. Georgia taxpayer says:

    Do you really think that the Governor is going to bite the hand that will be giving him his millions in retirement?

    Around Town in the Marietta Daily Journal reported that reporter Gary Reese of the Atlanta political publication Insider Advantage is hearing whisperings that before Gov. Sonny Perdue leaves office next year he would consider being named president of UGA by the toadies on the Board of Regents, replacing controversial president Michael Adams. Adams would then be a strong candidate for chancellor of the university system.

  4. Foundation Donors says:

    Interesting that fundraisers fail to mention this in their pressuring for us to give and it is strongly implied that our hard-earned money is for students’ scholarships. Someone should ask the fundraisers why we are not told during fundraising.
    I am sure the Board of Regents will say they earned it. Do they not believe faculty and staff have earned that – and more? Who do you think does their work while they are at their vacation homes?

  5. says:

    What’s the official rationale behind deferred compensation? I mean, why doesn’t the university just pay the person the whole amount as salary?

    I’m guessing it’s because they want to hide it, but I would be interested in hearing what their reasoning is.

    Great work, Jim.

  6. Jim Walls says:

    I’m thinking I should post some more documents from the time of the original policy decision that establish what they were thinking at the time. I’ll try to pull together a follow-up story to explain all that.

  7. Thomas Matthews says:

    They should have included a clause that negates Bell’s $600,000 if he is seen drooling during meetings or heard stumbling through one of his homilies about keeping “faculty accountable.” See recent articles in The Macon Telegraph, as well as this week’s political column that has a “spokeswoman” (not named?) congratulate Bell during the same month that he insults the faculty.

  8. hardeemann says:

    It seems that everyone is concerned with the pay of top officials in the USG arena. That is good! Doesn’t anyone care about the front line workers (the backbone of any organization) like maintenance and custodial employees? Apparently not! At Georgia Southern Universisty for example it seems that all office workers got a raise for the last two years while the only thing those of us who work with out hands got was two increases in insurance and an increase in our parking fee. By the way, the increases in insurance would have more than eaten up the meager raises we usually get (usually about $20 a month). Some good employees have gotten as little as $.03 cent an hour raise in the past. We can’t complain to anyone as the person we would be complaining to is an individual who received a raise “under the table”. We were even recently told that the next one caught complaining about pay would receive a written reprimand. What can we do? Doesn’t anyone care about us? Apparently not!!!

  9. Linda Carpenter says:

    I am overwhelmed at the selfish greediness when the Military needs money in many ways…most esp our Vets and the Military in combat…and their families. The dishonesty that is spreading in our Govt and schools….gotta go. I will vote and have spoken to others who have the same horrific feelings I do of the Institutions we used to trust and believe in. We need to get into put responsibilities to each community in each State. Then proper judgments can be made on who gets what…according to budget. Who is actually needy…and so on. Only people in each community can ascertain the truth of what is needed in every area. Balanced communities..bottom line in creating strength and growth. Let’s get with it America. Pray that “balance” spreads thru out this world. It can happen.
    God bless us all.