Pappas answers critics by stating wage package

November 01, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Stung by a barrage of criticism from the county executive, a state senator and others, Harford Community College President Richard J. Pappas has publicly detailed his salary and fringe benefits to "set the record straight."

Mr. Pappas said he decided to make the figures public in a two-page memorandum to end rumors about his compensation among elected officials and the news media. He sent the memo to college employees, students and trustees, and to politicians on Thursday.

The same day, County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann said she would "excuse" the college from cuts in county spending.

Mrs. Rehrmann told other county departments and agencies last week to find ways to cut their budgets by 2 1/2 percent because of anticipated state spending reductions. The county, which supplies about a third of HCC's money, expects to lose $6 million in state aid this year. Mrs. Rehrmann will decide how to distribute those cuts.

"There has been so much discussion about my compensation, I just wanted to set the record straight," Mr. Pappas said in an interview. "I'm 6 feet tall and I weigh 170 pounds; do you want my shoe size, too?" he joked.

Details of Mr. Pappas' compensation come a week after the board of trustees approved his recommendation to halve HCC employees' raises, including those for Mr. Pappas and three vice presidents.

Mr. Pappas' salary, $81,487, has been discussed at recent open meetings of the college's trustees. But details of his fringe benefit package, which had been the subject of much speculation, were not widely known.

In his memo, Mr. Pappas said the college pays 100 percent of his health and life insurance premiums. The college pays part of the premiums for other employees.

HCC also provides Mr. Pappas with a car, and he pays a percentage for personal use.

In 1990, Mr. Pappas, who has been at HCC for four years, also received $10,000 in deferred compensation in the form of annuities. The first $5,000 was part of Mr. Pappas' original three-year contract. The nine trustees voted to double that amount after an evaluation of his performance, the memo said.

"Despite rumors to the contrary, I do not have a housing allowance, a country club membership or additional retirement benefits," the memo said.

Mrs. Rehrmann said she asked Mr. Pappas for information on his fringe benefit package in early September "because questions had been raised. Some people thought he had a very generous fringe benefit package," she said.

"I only wanted answers because we were dealing with questions about his compensation package and because his salary increment was different from the rest of the faculty members'. "

Mr. Pappas received a 5 percent raise from the college trustees, while three vice presidents received a 4 percent increase. The college's 225 full-time employees received a 3 percent raise.

Mrs. Rehrmann said that after reviewing Mr. Pappas' salary and benefits, she recommended that he make the information public.

"I encouraged Mr. Pappas to inform everyone about the terms of his contract with the board of trustees, what issues were involved in his compensation and the level of his compensation," she said.

Mr. Pappas outraged some politicians, including Mrs. Rehrmann and state Sen. William H. Amoss, D-District 35A, when he accepted the 5 percent raise in August.

Mr. Pappas' donation of 2 percent of that raise to the college's non-profit foundation did not appease Mrs. Rehrmann or other critics.

The county executive had blasted the college for giving its full-time employees a 3 percent cost-of-living raise in July. Mrs. Rehrmann and County Councilman Robert Wagner, a District E Republican, called the raises inappropriate at a time that the county expects to lose millions in state aid.

The college has lost $400,000 in state aid this year and expects to lose more, Mr. Pappas said. Last year, the college lost $1.5 million in state aid, about 10 percent of its operating budget. The college raised tuition by $13, to $56 a credit hour, to help cover that loss.

Employee raises on top of tuition raises were one of the first signs that the college was not being a "team player," Mr. Wagner said.

But Mr. Pappas said the college's decision to halve the raises symbolized its "partnership and cooperation" with state and county government. Some trustees said cutting the raises -- which will save the college $115,000, or less than 1 percent of its $16 million operating budget -- were offered as an "olive branch" to Mrs. Rehrmann.

By cutting the raises, HCC also saves about $35,000 in "penalty money." The state saddled HCC with the penalty because HCC gave employees cost-of-living raises when state employees got none.

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