Source of funds for UM raises questions

State senator plans legislation to make records open to the public.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:28 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — It’s important for the public to know where the money to pay state university chancellors is coming from; if it takes legislation to ensure that happens, so be it, one lawmaker said Monday.

Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, promised to file legislation this week that would require the sources of public university chancellors’ salaries to be made public.

UM President Elson Floyd has increased the salaries for the chancellors of the St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla campuses. MU Chancellor Richard Wallace is retiring in June, and that position might be consolidated with Floyd’s.

With the university system’s struggling budget, Floyd was working to persuade private donors to pay for the higher salaries.

“I’d like for Dr. Floyd to come forth with those names voluntarily,” Steelman said Monday. “But if they don’t, then I think we need to take a serious look at doing that. If this is going to be a pattern of behavior with the University of Missouri system, then we need to address it statutorily.”

Floyd has said he has not decided whether to release the names of donors, who have so far made only verbal commitments. He originally promised them anonymity and said he needs permission to release their names.

Floyd said he would address the issue after Jan. 1.

UM spokesman Joe Moore said the school had not seen Steelman’s legislation and had no comment. He said Floyd was out of town and not available to comment.

Steelman said keeping the process open is important to ensure that no one has undue influence at a university.

“When it’s done by secret donors for this level of position with the university, I think it raises some serious questions,” Steelman said. “These are the decision makers on each campus. It’s important for the public to know where the money is coming from to pay their salaries.”

Steelman’s legislation, to be considered during the session that begins Jan. 7, also proposes other changes, which she has pursued in previous years, to the state’s open records law.

Currently, those who “purposely” violate the law are fined $100. Steelman’s bill would change that to fines ranging from $50 to $1,000, depending on the circumstances, and would lower the standard to “negligently” violating the law.

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