Hey administrators. Quit your job, earn big bucks

Ontario’s salary leaders aren’t current university presidents, but senior administrators who stepped down

Salary figures released Wednesday under Ontario’s “sunshine law” showed that the province’s most well compensated university officer was not a president, the traditional top university job. Surprisingly, vice presidents took the first and third prize for highest paid university employee in the province—or, rather, former vice presidents.

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The highest paid academic in Ontario in 2009 was Amit Chakma, vice-president academic and provost at the University of Waterloo, who bagged a whopping $737,640 in compensation plus $3,505 in benefits. But his annual take didn’t end there. He left Waterloo mid-year to accept the position of president of the University of Western Ontario starting on July 1, 2009. Western added $220,000 in salary and $9,294 in benefits to his annual pay, for a total nearing the $1 million mark.

The second highest paid university official was William Moriarty, president and CEO of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation, who was paid $605,728 in 2009. In the past two years senior financial managers have topped the salary list.

Right on Moriarty’s tail is yet another vice president who stepped down. Feridun Hamdullahpur, former vice president research and international at Carleton University, earned $503,247 plus $12,000 in benefits before leaving in July to assume top earner Chakma’s former position at Waterloo.

2009’s top earners are the latest examples of a trend that has been receiving growing attention in recent years: senior administrators receiving ultra sweet severance packages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although details aren’t available on Chakma’s severance package, he made a more modest $408,456 plus $5,955 in benefits in 2008 compared to a total Waterloo compensation of over $740,000 in 2009. Hamdullahpur made $230,434 at Carleton in 2008.

McMaster University attracted criticism in 2008 when it released president Peter George’s contract to the Hamilton Spectator after nearly two years of fighting against public disclosure. The contract detailed the generous package George will receive starting when his contract ends in July of this year. In addition to his pension, he will be paid nearly $1.4 million after he retires.

George’s contract was particularly controversial because he will be paid $99,999 per year for 14 years. Because Ontario universities did not fall under freedom of information legislation when the contract was signed in 2005, McMaster would have avoided having to disclose his compensation because it was one dollar short of $100,000. All public sector compensation in Ontario over $100,000 must be disclosed.

Paul Davenport, former president of Western who retired in 2009, is also set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of a retirement package. Davenport—who became president of UWO in 1996—will collect a regular university pension, as well as what the contract describes as a “Supplemental Pension Arrangement” (worth 5 per cent of his salary since 1996) and a “Special Executive Pension” (worth $123,030 per year if he begins drawing from it after his 65th birthday).

Lorna Marsden, former president of York University, is also one of the top paid administrators in Ontario, even though she stepped down in 2007. Despite the fact that she retired in 2007, she is listed for the second year in a row as “president emerita” and earned $394,980 in 2009.