State auditor's office reviewing contracts of university presidents, chancellors

Saturday, July 16, 2011 | 5:37 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — Missouri's auditor's office is completing a review of the contracts for the presidents and chancellors of the state's public universities.

Gary McElyea, a spokesman for the state's Auditor, Tom Schweich, said the review was to focus on the retention and compensation practices for the top leaders at Missouri's public, four-year colleges and universities. He said the study was to be completed this summer but declined to comment about the specific details of the audit.

McElyea said the examination was started under Democrat and former State Auditor Susan Montee, who Schweich, a Republican, defeated last year. The scope of the current review includes the leaders of individual campuses and the president of the four-campus University of Missouri System. The most recent review of university leaders was a follow-up from a state audit in 2000.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that another recent state review also included an examination of the president at Missouri State University. The audit raised questions about the university's contract with former president Mike Nietzel. That contract allowed Nietzel to become part of the Springfield university's faculty and go on paid leave for a semester with a salary of $160,000 per year. Nietzel taught a class in the spring and is to retire at the end of July. Auditors suggested Nietzel's salary appeared excessive and said Missouri State University should offer justification for the paid leave and require people to return to the school for a specific amount of time after the leave.

A similar contract was agreed to with James Cofer, who succeeded Nietzel as the president of Missouri State University. Cofer left the school's presidency this summer after holding the position for less than a year. He is to become part of the faculty. Cofer will earn a salary of $165,000 starting in August but was not expected to start teaching until the fall 2012 semester.

The Missouri State University Board of Governors said in response to the previous audit's findings that the board had the authority to negotiate and approve contracts for the president. It said the terms of the contracts were common and appropriate.


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