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May 23, 2013 07:04 AM EDT

SC Trustees at Loggerheads over New President’s Salary


South Carolina State University trustees are divided over the salary offer of $330,000 to Thomas Elzey, the university's new president.

During the trustees' meeting, Tuesday, the members voted 6-4  to offer the multi-year contract to 59-year-old Elzey, who is currently the finance and operations executive vice president at The Citadel. His new responsibility at South Carolina begins June 15.

Board Chair Dr. Walter L. Tobin, Maurice Washington and Jackie Epps, who supported the package with six others, have been voted off the board and will be leaving next month

On the other hand, Trustees Dr. John Corbitt, Linda Edwards Duncan, Patricia Lott and Tony Grant opposed both the length of the contract and the pay check by saying that the last president, George Cooper, was paid about $250,000, while the interim president, Cynthia Warrick, was being paid $156,000.

Grant said Elzey has not yet established himself as a college president and the proposed salary package is ideally suitable for someone who has lot more credentials. He also said that he was not in favor of allowing trustees, who would leave the board, June 30, to vote on an important contract, such as this.

Meanwhile, Lott said that she disapproved the idea of seeking donations to pay for the president's salary instead of diverting the additional amount to scholarships for needy students.

Students, who are okay with Elzey's appointment also feel that the money raised from donations can be used to retain students in school.

Akeem Brown, president of the Student Government Association, said that the 2013 spring semester saw 700 students unable to return to university because of their inability to pay tuition.

In their defense, Fleming, who favored the multi-year contract through the end of 2014, said that if the board frequently changes presidents, there will be a feeble chance of getting a qualified president in the future.

"I think that before we can get someone of quality into this position, we are going to have to show them that we will give them time to demonstrate their skills," Fleming said.

Meanwhile, Washington backing up Fleming's point of view, said that the contract functions as a stable platform, providing ample time to the incumbents to exhibit their strengths and talents

Elzey's salary includes $25,000 in annual housing allowance (pending approval from State Budget and Control Board), $170,000 in state salary (approved by the SC Agency Head Salary Commission) and an additional $131,000 coming from a South Carolina State foundation.

According to a 2012 inspection, the foundation's financial statements were not included in the university's financial records from 2005 through 2011; the last recorded statements were for the year, 2010.

Grant asked the officials if there was any certified statement from the foundation regarding the president's funding.

"In my opinion ... we are talking about a whole lot of money, something that ought to be put in writing, something that we ought to understand specifically on what we are voting on. "We don't have that in front of us.

"I think it's immoral and I think it's illegal to ask us to vote for something when we don't have the particulars in front of us."

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