Resignations, finance scandals and Board of Visitors dramatics: In a controversy that is vaguely reminiscent of last year’s troubles at the College of William and Mary, Radford University’s governing board is facing upheaval stemming from a decision to raise the annual deferred pay of the school’s President Penelope Kyle, who is rumored to be a possible candidate to succeed former President Gene Nichol at the College.
It all began when Radford University Board of Visitors member Robert Blake resigned from his position with much debate last month.
The Roanoke Times reported Sunday that Blake was accused of releasing confidential financial information to the foundation’s finance committee. In a resignation letter, Blake explained why he released the information.
“I do not regret my actions,” Blake told the Times. “Radford University is a public institution of the commonwealth, and most of its transactions and events, including compensation packages for faculty and administrators, should not be veiled in secrecy from its stakeholders.”
The information concerned an increase in Kyle’s deferred pay from an annual $55,000 to $200,000.
Blake referred to the salary increase as “detrimental to the financial well-being of the foundation.”
In April, the board extended Kyle’s contract by five years. Then-chairman of the foundation’s finance committee Gordon King, who resigned from the foundation in June, said that the group did not have the financial backing to commit to giving Kyle $1 million over the remainder of her five-year contract extension.
“If you’re going to fund something like that, you need to put a fund drive on to endow it,” he said.
The pay increase came after Radford BOV Rector R.J. Kirk allegedly said in a closed April BOV meeting that both the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University were interested in hiring Kyle.
Last week, College BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 told The Flat Hat in an e-mail that the search process for former College President Gene Nichol’s permanent replacement has not yet begun.
In response to those rumors, Kyle supposedly requested a large increase in her deferred payments, according to the Times.
The deferred payments will be made in addition to Kyle’s $290,299 annual salary, and $13,957 in bonuses, and compensation such as housing and the use of a car. Of these payments and benefits, the foundation is responsible for Kyle’s car, over $153,000 in salary and bonuses and all deferred pay.
Deferred compensation is paid out after it is earned. In most cases, it requires a worker to complete a contract.
Blake told King of the board’s discussion to implement the raise, an action that both feel does not fall under the board’s authority.
Alan Gernhardt, a lawyer for the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, said that while sharing information from a closed meeting may be bad form, it is not illegal.
“It’s freedom of speech,” Gernhardt said. “The vast majority of time, if people want to say something, they can.”