GA Universities Keep Former Bosses on Payroll Despite Devastating Cuts

This story made the front page of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution
James Salzer; Staff

University System puts past bosses on payroll despite fiscal troubles. Angry legislators: Policy must get a closer look.

For nine years after he retired as the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, Stephen Portch remained on the state’s payroll, collecting $823,000 as an adviser and consultant, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

The payments continued through two state fiscal crises and regular complaints from university officials about having to cut their budgets.

Before leaving the state’s employ last fall, Portch had been on the payroll longer as an adviser and consultant than he’d been as chancellor. He declined to comment directly on his state payments, although the current chancellor described Portch’s service as “extremely valuable.” His responsibilities included advising chancellors and staff, helping to identify talent for top administrative posts, and other services, system officials said.

Portch was not the only top official to continue being paid after retiring.

Some former Georgia public university presidents have received six-figure salaries for a year or more to prepare for teaching assignments or for transitioning to life off campus. One ex-president was paid about $180,000 in a year to help develop a president’s evaluation program, records show. Another is being paid five years after she retired as she lectures and promotes the school she once ran.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested data from the University System and reviewed state Department of Audits records to piece together how much public money had been spent over the past decade.

Records were also sought from individual universities, which in some cases supplied incomplete pay records or no records at all. So it was impossible to determine exactly what has been paid out.

Agreements the AJC was able to review spell out, in some cases, what the ex-presidents would be doing while being paid. In some cases, the retirees were paid simply for being retirees, state records suggest:

Former longtime Georgia State University President Carl Patton was paid $365,571 in 2009, the year after he left office. He was listed in audit reports as a “professor,” although system staffers said he, too, should have been designated as “retiree.” Patton declined to comment for this article.

Katherine Paist, a Georgia State University student who is a member of the activist group Georgia Students for Public Higher Education, called the payments “ridiculous” at a time when many students are having a hard time affording school.

“You would think if we were seeing such an increase in tuition, you would think we would see a cut to these payrolls,” she said. “I think a lot of students would be really upset if they knew there were people who weren’t working anymore getting paid six figures when they are in school 18 hours trying to graduate so they can work.”

An exclusive report

Our senior Capitol reporter — an expert on state budgets with 20 years’ experience — spent weeks gathering documents and interviews for this look at how the system spends your money.

Please read the full story here.

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