Curators’ records dispute deemed ‘internal’

The process leading to Elson Floyd’s raise wasn’t willful disregard of the law, state officials say.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

Complaints by three University of Missouri curators that their colleagues may have violated the state’s open records law involve “an internal dispute” that doesn’t require a broader investigation, the state attorney general’s office said Tuesday.

Curators Doug Russell, David Wasinger and John Carnahan III opposed the process that culminated in a $21,000 annual pay raise and two-year contract extension for UM System President Elson Floyd. The changes approved Dec. 16 were announced three days later.

The three newest curators raised questions about the board’s failure to immediately report an earlier contract amendment signed by Floyd and board President Tom Atkins on Feb. 2.

State law allows governing bodies to close meetings in which “hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of employees” is discussed, which was the case at a November 2004 session to evaluate Floyd’s job performance. The law also requires “any vote on a final (personnel) decision” made during a closed meeting to be disclosed within 72 hours.

Minutes from the November 2004 meeting reflect the unanimous vote to increase Floyd’s salary by 3 percent. At that time, curators also asked Atkins to negotiate a two-year extension and changes to Floyd’s deferred compensation plan. Floyd and Atkins signed a contract amendment outlining those changes on Feb. 2, but the new curators, who took office around that time, objected, so Floyd chose to wait for them to resolve their concerns before accepting any additional money.

The three new curators say the contract amendment should have been disclosed within three days, but there’s no record of such a disclosure.

J.P. Clubb, a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon, said the dispute doesn’t rise to the level of willful disregard of the law, which is usually a precursor for prosecution.

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