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Keller’s Severance Pay Astounds

Keller and Kim.jpgThe front page story in the Valley News last Thursday concerned the contretemps at the University of Vermont over their President’s severance package. After ten years on the job, UVM President Dan Fogel was awarded a $500,000 severance payout by his Board. Not too shabby. Would Dartmouth do such a thing?

In a word, of course. The gents’ club that runs the College would never hold anyone accountable; recall for future reference that if you hold others accountable for their actions, they might just turn around and do the same to you.

This space observed at the time that former Executive Vice-President for Finance and Administration Adam Keller was given the boot in November, 2009. Needless to say, the Kim administration made the usual noises about Keller being assigned different responsibilities (and in point of fact, he does have an empty web page at The Dartmouth Institute), but nobody with a scintilla of real-world experience was under any illusions. Keller richly merited his fate, as this space has documented: under his supervision, the Treasurer’s Office put the College’s working capital into disastrous hedge funds investments (a $31.978 million loss) and interest rate swaps (a loss of at least $43.014 million), in addition to allowing the College’s headcount, payroll and benefits package to swell unconscionably.

Keller was asked to leave his post only four months or so into the 2009 fiscal year (July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2010), and at that time he was awarded a severance package that would make the outgoing President of UVM jealous — recall that Keller was just a Vice-President, not Dartmouth’s leader. First of all, Keller’s package seemed to cover payouts and benefits that would continue over two years, through October of this year.

Keller 990.png

Secondly, the payout in the 2009 fiscal year alone dwarfed the sum received by UVM’s President. The following appeared in the College’s IRS Form 990 filing:

Keller 990 Severance.png

$855,636!?! for a bureaucrat who put the College into ill-advised investments that cost it close to $75 million dollars. And the payout will continue to climb in the 2010 fiscal year.

Not that the College is unaccustomed to paying out lush salaries, as you can also see above: then-Provost Scherr (dismissed at the start of October 2009, so most of his $447,466 pay in that year was a form of severance, too) and Dartblog favorite Carol Folt (at the time Dean of the Faculty; now Provost) were also booking compensation close to $450,000/year; and College Counsel Bob Donin and VP for Development Carrie Pelzel (now Senior Vice President for Advancement, whatever that is) were banking just shy of $350,000. We can assume that the latter three have had hefty raises in the interim.

Why the fat payout for Keller? One can only speculate. Dartmouth’s mutual back-scratching ethos was undoubtedly at work, but perhaps there was something more in play as well. When employees leave the College, they are routinely pressured, or induced, to sign non-disclosure agreements. Perhaps Keller struck a hard bargain in exchange for his silence regarding the College’s ongoing financial mismanagement. Would that surprise you?

Wright.jpgNote: Jim Wright seems to have been awarded a year’s severance pay as well after his departure from the Presidency — a cool $721,385 — though this figure was characterized as including amounts earned while he was on sabbatical as a faculty member. Given that Keller’s depredations occurred on Wright’s watch, one must wonder if anyone in the Kim administration and on the Board of Trustees is making decisions about these severance payouts with the longterm welfare of Dartmouth College in mind.

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