Former University of Louisville President James Ramsey resigned under pressure a mere 27 days into the 2016-17 fiscal year, but he was still the nation’s highest-paid public college president that year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Chronicle, which maintains a database of compensation received by chief executives of public and private colleges, reported this week that Ramsey was paid about $4.3 million that fiscal year — more than any of the other 250 top executives for public colleges and systems included in its review.
Ramsey made millions despite stepping down as U of L’s president on July 27, 2016, less than a month after the fiscal year began on July 1. Two months later, he relinquished his related (and controversial) role as president of the University of Louisville Foundation.
Ramsey received approximately $3.5 million in deferred compensation and nearly $688,000 in severance pay the year he left, according to The Chronicle. He also received $55,703 in base pay.
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University spokesman John Karman confirmed The Chronicle’s figures. He also indicated U of L didn’t have much control over the amount of money Ramsey received when he departed.
“Dr. Ramsey’s compensation for that year was greatly increased by a deferred compensation payout that the university was contractually obligated to provide,” Karman said in an email.
Deferred compensation for Ramsey has been cited in a lawsuit the university and the foundation filed against Ramsey in April.
U of L claims its former president and several other defendants knowingly caused the foundation to spend endowment money at an unsustainable rate, and its ongoing lawsuit raises concerns about “excessive and unauthorized compensation” that went to Ramsey and his ex-chief of staff, Kathleen Smith.
A study that was publicly released in May said the foundation collectively overpaid Ramsey and other ex-officials by approximately $3.9 million over seven years. Roughly $3 million of that excessive pay was for Ramsey alone, according to the study by the Korn Ferry Hay Group consulting firm.
Ramsey has asked a judge to dismiss U of L’s claims against him.
Smith, a defendant in the same case, filed court documents last week denying various allegations made by the university. She also filed counterclaims saying U of L owes her money, including $91,316 from the university and $100,000 in deferred compensation from the foundation.
Steve Pence, Ramsey’s lawyer, said Monday that the university and the foundation paid Ramsey only what their own governing boards had approved.
“Our position has always been ‘if they don’t want to pay the next president as much, they don’t have to do that,’” Pence said.
But Ramsey negotiated his compensation package and “earned every penny,” he said.
The foundation no longer offers deferred compensation to top officials. University President Neeli Bendapudi, whose tenure began in May, is slated to receive a $650,000 annual salary and a guaranteed $125,000 bonus for the first two years of her five-year contract.
Ramsey was easily the front-runner in The Chronicle’s report on public-college leaders for fiscal year 2016-17. The next-highest-paid official was retired Auburn University President Jay Gogue, with about $1.8 million.
Additionally, The Chronicle said the roughly $4.3 million Ramsey was paid is the second-largest compensation package that the president of a public college or system has ever obtained, based on an analysis of data it has collected since 2008.
This article is provided via the Kentucky Press News Service.