News of the $815,741 paid last year to retired Kentucky Community & Technical College System President Michael McCall has drawn expressions of outrage from lawmakers, college employees, citizens and the state’s secretary of education.
Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration said Thursday it will conduct a comprehensive review of KCTCS, which announced the elimination of 506 jobs earlier this week. The review will be done by the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet under Secretary Hal Heiner and the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education.
As reported Thursday by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, McCall retired Jan. 15, 2015, but was given a consulting contract that paid him $300,965 till year-end. KCTCS also gave him $352,066 for 261 unused vacation days and a $124,249 deferred incentive payout.
In a statement Friday, Heiner said the compensation paid to McCall last year underscores the need for the review.
“Transparency and financial integrity with the people’s money is non-negotiable,” he said. “All spending and contracts — from top to bottom of the organization — must be made readily accessible to the public. Only then will Kentuckians be able to have full confidence in the effective use of their tax dollars in preparing our students to lead into the next generation.”
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, took to Twitter yesterday to express further infuriation with the McCall payouts. He wrote that the “mob didn’t shake (people) down like this.”
— Chris McDaniel (@kychrismcdaniel) May 19, 2016
Nor did the money paid to McCall sit well with Richard Nelson, executive director of the non-profit, conservative Commonwealth Policy Center in Herndon.
KCTCS eliminates 506 jobs, enrollment @2003 level while budget doubled, paid $815,741 last year to former president Michael McCall #outrage
— Richard Nelson (@CPC4Kentucky) May 19, 2016
But the people perhaps most offended by the disclosure of McCall’s 2015 compensation are KCTCS employees, some of whom have already lost their jobs because of declining enrollment and state-mandated budget cuts. KCTCS has cut 506 jobs — about 12 percent of its full-time work force. That number included the layoff of 45 professors and 125 staff.
“It makes you angry when you see your friends and co-workers being laid off, and he (McCall) is being paid essentially for nothing,” said David Cooper, an English professor at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville.
Cooper is a Jefferson County representative to the Kentucky Community & Technical College Faculty/Staff Alliance, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. He welcomed the Bevin administration’s review of KCTCS.
“I’m not a big fan of this governor, but I think it is overdue,” he said. “I think a long time ago, the legislature should have done some oversight of the kind of princely salary and compensation McCall was getting.”
Another JCTC English professor, Michael Ginsberg, had a front-row seat with McCall. As a KCTCS Board of Regents member from 2009 to 2014, he said fellow regents were spellbound by McCall.
“Board members treated him like a corporate CEO who could do no wrong,” Ginsberg said. “Year after year, he failed in his lobbying efforts to keep the legislature from cutting our funding, yet the board kept throwing praise and money at him and encouraged a cult of personality.
“It’s obscene that he kept grabbing all that money as the system sank deeper and deeper in financial crisis,” he said. “So I blame Dr. McCall for the mess we’re in now.”
McCall lives in South Carolina and could not be reached for comment.
The system’s former board chair, P.G. Peeples, said it was not the board’s intention to put McCall “in a position to stockpile days and create another income stream.”
Although KCTCS policy forbids staff employees from accumulating more than 40 days of vacation, the system’s Board of Regents excused McCall from that limit in his employment contract.
Elsewhere, full-time employees of Kentucky state government can amass or cash out a maximum of 60 vacation days, and that applies to those with at least 20 years of service. At the University of Kentucky, faculty and staff are limited to cashing out 22 and 20 days, respectively, upon departure in good standing.
The University of Louisville allows administrators and staff to carry or cash out a maximum of 44 vacation days.
Reporter James McNair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (502) 814.6543.
This story was reported by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.