Doing well: Gearhart’s inner circle

Amid budget trouble, money was found for hefty pay raises to some UA top administrators

Arkansas Blog has published information compiled by John Diamond concerning some remarkable pay raises recently awarded to administrators connected to the University of Arkansas’ troubled Advancement Division. Recall that the Advancement Division is still running a deficit attributed to uncontrolled payroll increases. Some of the raises are due to promotions which Diamond contends were granted without following proper procedures. A University spokesman has denied that allegation, claiming that these positions had been posted and their pay reviewed. We haven’t seen the records proving or disproving this but point out that workforce analyses, salary and raise audits required under UA policy apparently have not been conducted in recent years. We have also reported on some remarkable extra compensation awards that were not pre-approved as required by policy.

Room for raises at the top

Associate Vice Chancellor for Development Mark Power received a whopping 32% raise, to $194,000. He took over in July 2013 for Bruce Pontious, who left in September. Power’s salary has gone up 57% in four years (he already was listed as Associate Vice Chancellor back in 2010). The salary comparison is based on the Administrator’s Compensation Survey (see last post for details). Chris Wyrick, who was promoted head of Advancement in 2013, now makes twice what he made in 2010. To be fair, he still makes less than his predecessor Brad Choate. It is noteworthy however that he already got a raise after only three months on the job, to $287,000. Shortly thereafter, Wyrick had to publicly explain offensive remarks he was reported having made.

Judy Schwab, another Associate Vice Chancellor in Chancellor Gearhart’s inner circle, got a 10% raise to $165,000, an increase of 26% over four years. Even more remarkable is a 15% raise for treasurer Jean Schook. Schook pleased Gearhart by assigning all blame for the Advancement Division trouble to Brad Choate and Joy Sharp, but found her own financial maneuvers severely criticized by the Legislative Audit.

Scott Varady, working as General Counsel for the System Office, was even awarded two raises in just a few months. He now makes $200,000, 32% more than in 2013. General Counsel has played a significant if somewhat covert role in the whole crisis. For example, they provided the fake justification for withholding records from journalists’ FOIA requests. When the prosecutor’s office investigated possible FOIA violations by UA administrators, the UA attorneys interviewed critical witnesses in presence of Gearhart’s private attorney. The conduct of these interviews on September 24, 2013 was initially revealed by John Diamond in legislative testimony. The UA has confirmed that the interviews have taken place but contends that no related records, notes, transcripts, or emails exist, and no comment has been made as to the purpose. Why did Varady’s taxpayer-funded salary make a sudden jump last December?

Denise Reynolds, named head of budget and HR for Advancement in 2013, received a 3% raise in July 2013 and then an additional 20% in October, retroactive to July. She now makes $92,500, 46% more than only two years ago. She was a witness in the Washington County prosecutor’s investigation of possible FOIA violations. The Democrat-Gazette reported on December 19, 2013 that top administrators Bruce Pontious (now retired) and Graham Stewart (leaving end of January for Vanderbilt) testified that Gearhart told them at a meeting on January 14, 2013 to “get rid” of budget documents, confirming the account given earlier by John Diamond (fired). “Soon after that September meeting with legislators, Reynolds supported Gearhart’s version of what happened. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the Chancellor never told her to destroy documents or stop creating them.” The “get rid” quote was included in a draft version of the prosecutor’s report but was edited out of the final version. The Pulaski County prosecutor is currently investigating whether Gearhart lied under oath about what happened at this meeting.

Pay raises for selected University of Arkansas top administrators, 2010-2014 (table was revised to better reflect benefits)

Pay raises for selected University of Arkansas top administrators, 2010-2014 (table was revised to better reflect benefits)

A more comprehensive compilation of pay raises for top administrators (xls format) shows that a number of Vice Chancellors and Vice Provosts have done very well recently, with rates of increase better, and sometimes much better, than 20% over four years being the norm. Most faculty members and other UA employees were lucky to get any raises at all.


2 thoughts on “Doing well: Gearhart’s inner circle

  1. This is wrong. Taxpayers, and those that pay tuition at U of A should be outraged. All this as while tuition and fees go UP and UP.Universities here and elsewhere have NO CHECKS AND BALANCES – the “board of trustees ” has no interest other than to allow universities like U of A to spend and grow because it makes the board members look good to be on the board of a growing “progressive” university. State legislators will rarely tell universities “NO” … Even as birth rates go down, and technology makes classroom space more antiquated- universities like U of A just keep spending and growing. No matter what. And in this specific situation – these people should have been fired- from the top, for their mismanagement, instead of being given pay raises for a cover up.

  2. Pingback: UA finance chief cleared in criminal investigation | Academic Daylight

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