Board Releases UVI Salaries, President’s Contract, but Stands By Its Legal Argument

The University of the Virgin Islands has released a copy of President David Hall’s contract and the salaries of university employees, while standing by its legal opinion that it was not required to do so.

According to the copy of the contract made available to the Source on Monday, Hall receives a salary of $350,000 a year, which is $35,000 more than the base salary in his first contract. The previous president of the university, LaVerne E. Ragster, made approximately $165,000 a year, less than half of what Hall is paid.

“It should be understood that both the base compensation for President Hall is comparable to other university presidents at public four-year institutions,” Henry C. Smock, chairman of the board, said in letter provided to the Source by UVI.

The university’s Board of Trustees came under fire in June for reportedly withholding public access to President David Hall’s employment contract and the salaries of university employees.

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Other Virgin Islands media argued the board was legally required to share the Hall’s contract and the salaries of university employees under the terms of the Open Records Act. UVI’s legal counsel has claimed that the act doesn’t apply to the university.

In a letter to the editor sent to the Source last Friday and published Tuesday (See Related Links, below,) Hall said UVI is exempt from the Open Records Act, citing Title 17 of the Virgin Islands Code, Section 453(b). That section says that the university must abide by all laws that are applicable to it.

“Because the Open Records Act is not expressly applicable to UVI or generally applicable to independent instrumentalities, UVI counsel have expressed the opinion that it is not applicable to UVI,” Hall said, adding that the university is subject to the Sunshine Act.

The Sunshine Act allows board members to discuss some matters and receive legal advice in executive session without the meeting’s audience, including media, present.

Other media have also said that the board has illegally gone into executive session to discuss public access to documents and information, but Hall and the board maintain that this is legal under the Sunshine Act.

A summary of Hall’s first employment contract for the 2009-2014 term was shared and published in other media in January 2014. The board said the president’s current employment contract for his second term, 2014-2019, was not finished at that time, since the board had just recently voted to authorize a contract.

Hall said even if the Open Records Act were applicable to UVI, the release of his contract would be restricted due to an exception to the act if the records contain “Personal information in confidential personnel records.”

Despite this, Hall said the board decided to release his full contract and all employee salaries.

In his letter accompanying the contract, Smock said Hall’s salary was based on what he was already earning as a professor and consultant in Massachusetts. Sources close to the university said that the search committee that found Hall was offering a salary in the $300,000 range in order to attract top talent.

Benjamin Sachs, the interim dean of the School of Medicine, is the only employee that makes more than Hall, earning $375,000 per year.

Though his contract exempted him from the eight percent salary reduction imposed on government employees between July 4, 2011 and July 3, 2013, Hall willingly took the cut like other university employees did.

If Hall’s annual performance evaluation by the board goes well, he’s eligible for a $25,000 yearly bonus. Smock said the board has not given Hall a bonus since 2010 due to the university and territory’s economic condition.

Fundraising requirements are the major difference between Hall’s first and second contract terms. As a part of his current contract, Hall is required to fundraise a total of $22.5 million in increments by the end of his term in 2019. His progress toward raising this amount is part of his annual evaluation.

Hall’s wife can also travel with him on three business-related trips each year paid for by the university, as well as go to St. Croix for major university events.

The university pays for most of Hall’s expenses. His family has a three-bedroom home and a guesthouse on campus that’s maintained by the university. All utility bills, including telephone and internet service, are covered too, as is the cost his car and its gas, insurance and maintenance.

While Hall receives the same retirement and health insurance benefits as all university employees, he does have some extra perks. During his first term Hall exceeded the employer contribution match allotment of 14.5 percent due to his high salary but the university has agreed to make up the difference for his first term to the tune of $24,259.

If Hall’s employment ends, the university will pay for his moving expenses back to Massachusetts or to somewhere of equal or less cost. And, once his term is over, Hall has the option of becoming a full tenured professor at with university with guaranteed pay equal to the amount of the highest paid faculty member.

At the end of his term, Hall also has the option of taking a one-year sabbatical, during which time he’d be paid his annual presidential salary and given secretarial support for six months. 

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