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Mason received bonus in 2008

BY EMILY BUSSE | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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The same month that regents denied UI President Sally Mason a pay increase last year, in part because of the university’s mishandling of an alleged on-campus sexual assault, she received a $50,000 bonus.

The $50,000 was guaranteed to Mason at the end of her first year as outlined in her original contract with the regents, said Regent President David Miles.

Though aware of her contract, officials interviewed were confused whether she actually received the money. Recent reports have said the state Board of Regents has never given any bonuses.

Miles said he is not sure why it has been reported for more than a year that regents have never issued any bonuses, adding, “If it’s been reported, it’s inaccurate.”

Part of the confusion may be because the 2008 bonus was not documented to the extent that the regents’ actions normally are, said Sheila Doyle, the regents’ communications director.

“I think people lose sight of it, that’s all,” she said.

Regent Robert Downer said on Thursday he didn’t remember Mason getting the bonus in 2008.

“If this was paid, I was not aware of it,” he said. “… I wouldn’t have any significant complaint with it.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said Mason decided to donate the money to fund scholarships.

Compensation for the state university presidents is based on the regents’ evaluation of whether they fulfilled predetermined goals for the previous year. But the $50,000 in 2008 had nothing to do with Mason’s performance during her first year of employment, Miles said. Instead, it was a promise made to Mason during the negotiation process following her hiring.

“It was intended to be a performance incentive, but as part of the negotiation process, the regents committed to pay it without respect to performance,” Miles said. “It was simply part of the hiring negotiations.”

While Mason was not granted a pay increase to her $450,000 salary in 2008 the Stolar Report showed the university mishandled the alleged sexual assault in Hillcrest in October of that year, the regents upped her potential incentive-based pay to $80,000 for the next year.

Mason and the presidents of Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa turned down their incentive pay this year because of budget cuts facing their institutions.

The performance-based bonus program began at the UI upon Mason’s hiring, and regents implemented it at ISU and UNI a year later.

The regents announced earlier this week that they may re-evaluate the bonus program.

Downer said the increasing controversy over bonuses for university presidents is not the sole reason for reconsideration.

“It’s very difficult to speculate as to what the outcome will be,” he said. “It has more to do with the economy than whether [bonuses] are appropriate.”

UNI President Benjamin Allen and ISU President Gregory Geoffroy were eligible to receive performance-based bonuses for the first time this year.

“The budget situation for the state is very serious, and President Allen doesn’t think a bonus at this point would be an appropriate thing,” said UNI spokesman James O’Connor.

Geoffroy adamantly denounced the idea of incentive-based bonuses at the Oct. 29 regents’ meeting.

“These kind of performance-based bonuses are not good for public officials,” Geoffroy said moments after declining his own. “I would urge you to think about other ways to structure compensation.”

The regents will consider giving bonuses to the presidents next in June 2011, and Downer said he anticipates they may be reinstated in the future if regents decide to do away with them.

“I think it’s entirely possible they could return,” he said. “I think these things change and perceptions of them change over time.”


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