Former UMaine president returns $25,000 to Connecticut board after resigning amid furor

Former University of Maine President Robert Kennedy during a farewell party in 2011.
Former University of Maine President Robert Kennedy during a farewell party in 2011.
Posted Oct. 23, 2012, at 7:59 a.m.

Former state Higher Education chief Robert Kennedy, who resigned Oct. 12 amid controversy, has returned one of two $25,000 payments he received from an “unvouchered” expense account, the Board of Regents for Higher Education announced Monday.

The announcement came as Kennedy’s lucrative state contract, negotiated with the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last year, came under fire from both Democratic and Republican legislators — after the Courant reported that Kennedy received more than $100,000 in contractual compensation beyond his annual base salary of $340,000 during the 13 months he was on the job.

State House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said it’s not enough for Kennedy to return the $25,000 in expense account money, and he should also not accept another $20,000 in “deferred compensation” that the contract says he can collect after completing 12 months on the job. He’s still entitled to the deferred payment, Regents spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan Johnson has said.

But Cafero said: “I think he should thank his lucky stars for what he’s already received, and should forget anything he has not yet received and fade off into the sunset.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Cafero said about the problems at the newly reorganized higher education agency. Kennedy resigned amid a furor over his granting over $250,000 in raises to his staff without proper authorization. In addition to friction with community college presidents, Kennedy also drew criticism for spending 8 1/2 weeks in Minnesota this past summer, working “remotely” from a home he has there. Most of that that was under a contract provision giving him “up to six weeks [in] annual paid professional leave.”

“Every day it gets worse,” Cafero said. “The gluttony with regard to this contract has reached the level of embarrassment.”

Kennedy was not available for comment Monday.

Among extras in his contract were:

—The two $25,000 payments — one of which he now has given back — from “an annual unvouchered accommodation account.” Kennedy served during two different state fiscal years — which run from July 1 to June 30 — and originally got a $25,000 payment for each, Flanagan Johnson said. She said Monday that on Oct. 15, he returned the second, writing that “as a result of my employment termination, I am enclosing a personal check returning the … funds … which were included in my 9/20/2012 paycheck as taxable income.”

— A $25,000 “performance based” bonus for meeting his “Year 1″ goal, which included establishing “the central system office of the Board of Regents.”

— $19,274 in moving reimbursements for his relocation from both his main residence in Maine and his summer home in Minnesota upon his arrival in Connecticut in 2011. He and his wife found an apartment in Bloomfield when he took the job.

Democratic state Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford, co-chairwoman of the legislative higher education committee, said she “was quite taken aback” by the Kennedy extras, “particularly … the unvouchered reimbursement,” which she called “atypical.”

Bye said that the Regents need to negotiate the next contract as a group — perhaps using a “compensation commission” — with whomever is chosen to succeed Kennedy. That would be better than having it negotiated by one person, as Malloy’s former chief of staff did in 2011 when the governor recruited the former Maine education administrator, she said.

She said valid comparisons must be used for pay and contract provisions, and “all the little perks” should be avoided so it will be “more transparent” and the public can more easily understand what the new person is being paid.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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