Mun Choi ends executive incentive pay at UM System

UM System President Mun Choi, shown at a Nov. 2 news conference, announced Friday he will end the UM System's executive incentive pay program.

COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri System's executive performance incentive program, which came under fire in a recent state audit, has been terminated.

UM President Mun Choi made the incentive program's termination public in a news release Friday morning. He said the decision is effective immediately.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Choi announced that the UM System would not ask any administrators to return past incentive payments. Choi praised the work ethic of university leaders and emphasized the need to pay faculty and staff at market value in order to attract and retain talented individuals.

"As the state's premier public university, we owe it to the state's taxpayers and our stakeholders to be transparent with respect to what we are trying to accomplish as we move the university forward," Choi said in the news release. "To that end, I will explore options for making our executive performance practices more effective, with any changes fully vetted with the Board of Curators."

State Auditor Nicole Galloway on Monday released the results of an audit that found the UM System had paid about $2.3 million in "inappropriate bonus payments" to high-level administrators over the past three years. The payments, which the audit said "may violate the Missouri Constitution," included $1.2 million in "incentives to 18 executives and more than $1 million in luxury vehicle and travel allowances and other forms of compensation.

In a Friday afternoon news release, Galloway said she was "pleased" with the decision to end the incentive program.

"I will be watching their progress and my team will return later this year to determine whether they have followed through on their commitment," Galloway said in the release. "I will also review whether other concerns related to transparency in executive pay and luxury vehicle allowances have been fully addressed."

The incentive compensation program began in 2008 under former UM President Gary Forsee, system spokesman John Fougere said.

Missouri Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, praised Choi's decision in a news release Friday.

"Today's decisive actions are an important first step in Dr. Choi's tenure as UM System President and the articulation of a new narrative of excellence at Missouri's flagship university," Rowden said in the release.

Maurice Graham, chair of the UM Board of Curators, said in the UM news release that the board "strongly supports" Choi's decision to terminate the program.

Choi also has ordered an immediate and comprehensive review of "all elements of compensation" for system executives.

Missourian reporter Andrew Kessel contributed to this report.