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MnSCU-Rosenstone negotiations, Part I

Rep. Gene Pelowski, currently the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, is upset that the negotiations between Chancellor Rosenstone and Clarence Hightower were hidden in secrecy:

Rep. Gene Pelowski, chair of the House higher education committee, blasted MnSCU leaders for settling Rosenstone’s contract while testy negotiations with the universities’ faculty union drag on.

Those leaders promised lawmakers during the last legislative session that if they approved $17 million for the system, the contract for those 4,000 faculty members would be settled “within days,” said Pelowski, D-Winona.

“Well, it’s been a month or more,” he said. “Then the most expensive contract you have, you settled in October? And now we find out about it?” The public deserves a more open process, Pelowski added. “If you look at openness in government and take a smell test, this stinks.”

Here's what Rep. Pelowski is complaining about:

Monday’s announcement that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system gave its top executive a raise and a new, three-year contract, last October, drew criticism from a top lawmaker and the union that represents the faculty at seven state universities.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone will make $387,250 in base salary for the coming school year, a 1.8 percent increase. He also will receive a $43,160 boost to allowances for transportation and other expenses, MnSCU said.

The original contract that Chancellor Rosenstone signed called for a base salary of $360,000 a year. That translates into a $27,250 raise in base salary. Add into that the $43,160 increase for "transportation and other expenses." That means Chairman Hightower negotiated a contract extension that increased Chancellor Rosenstone's compensation by $70,410 a year.

That isn't the most aggravating part to taxpayers. This is:

“It’s the same process we used three years ago when we hired Chancellor Rosenstone,” he said. There was no vote, news release or announcement then, either, he said.

Chairman Hightower is either lying or he's mistaken. Here's proof:

Trustee Clarence Hightower moved that the Board of Trustees appoints Dr. Steven Rosenstone as chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities effective August 1, 2011, subject to the candidate’s acceptance. The board chair is authorized to negotiate and execute an employment agreement with the chancellor-designate in accordance with the Personnel Plan for Administrators. Trustee Christine Rice seconded and the motion carried on a roll call vote with fourteen ayes (Trustees Duane Benson, Cheryl Dickson, Jacob Englund, Christopher Frederick, Clarence Hightower, Dan McElroy, Alfredo Oliveira, David Paskach, Thomas Renier, Christine Rice, Louise Sundin, James Van Houten, Michael Vekich and Chair Scott Thiss) and one nay (Trustee Philip Krinkie).

There certainly was a vote. Not only that but the vote was included in the MnSCU Board of Trustees' minutes. The Board picked a new chancellor by vote, too, choosing Dr. Rosenstone over Dr. Sederburg.

This entire process stinks. Chancellor Rosenstone and the chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees hid the extension for months, thereby eliminating the possibility of public testimony and public comments.

Rep. Pelowski doesn't look good, either. He knew that Chancellor Rosenstone's contract was due to expire on June 30, 2014. Despite the fact that this wasn't a budget year, which means less work, Rep. Pelowski didn't hold any oversight hearings to determine whether things were running smoothly at MnSCU's universities.

It's disgusting when a public servant secretly negotiates a multi-year contract with the chairman of a board of trustees appointed by an absentee governor. It's worse when the chairman then hides this information from the trustees.

Tune in later today to read Part II about this disgusting episode. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

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