Lawsuit filed over Cal Poly president’s salary
October 25, 2011
UPDATE: The lawsuit filed by Lillian Taiz was dismissed today by a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court.
ORIGINAL STORY: A lawsuit against the California State University (CSU) system has been filed in Los Angeles, claiming that administrators broke the state’s public disclosure laws this year by failing to reveal that the salary approved by trustees for the new president of Cal Poly was above the maximum published amount for that job. [SF Chronicle]
In January, CSU trustees approved a compensation package for Dr. Jeffrey Armstrong, the new president of Cal Poly, for $350,000 with an additional annual supplement of $30,000 to be paid from the campus foundation.
Until then, the university’s published salary range for campus presidents was from $223,584 to $328,212.
The lawsuit is being filed by Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, which represents 22,000 CSU employees.
“We’re saying you have to have to give the public a chance to comment on the fact that you’re raising it above the maximum,” said Taiz. “We all have an obligation to be open – particularly with salaries of this maximum.”
California’s Bagley-Keene Act requires state boards and commissions to conduct meetings in public and to provide public notice of those sessions unless the action is authorized for a closed session.
Taiz said that by raising Armstrong’s salary above the published maximum, CSU is, in effect, changing its salary policy without telling the public. As an example, she said, trustees have since approved another new president’s salary – in July, for Elliot Hirshman at San Diego State – that at $400,000 was also higher than its published maximum.
Taiz believes the public has a right to understand the context in which executive salaries are being raised – especially as CSU has increased tuition, cut back on courses and services and suffered deep reductions in its allocations from the state.
The judge will be asked today to order CSU to rescind the difference between what Armstrong is earning and the maximum published amount for his position until CSU announces that the salary is higher than its policy permits.
The lawsuit asks the judge to confirm that CSU violated state law when it didn’t explain that the new salary was higher than its published maximum.
Meanwhile, CSU responded that it disclosed Armstrong’s salary in the same way it has disclosed salaries for years.
“The CSU is completely transparent with all individual compensation decisions and all executive compensation policies and programs, and no changes to the policies or programs occurred in this instance,” said CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.