Mo­hawk Col­lege pres­i­dent has a se­cret con­tract

Prov­ince urges post-se­condary in­sti­tu­tion to be open, ac­count­able

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNA FRKETICH Mo­hawk Col­lege pres­i­dent Ron McKer­lie re­ceives a sec­ond, undis­closed salary plus ex­penses.

THE PRES­I­DENT of Mo­hawk Col­lege re­ceives a sec­ond salary of at least $91,000 plus ex­penses from the foun­da­tion that raises money for the school.

The con­tract and ex­penses are kept se­cret from the pub­lic and are ex­empt from pro­vin­cial rules and free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests.

“This causes me con­sid­er­able con­cern,” said Deputy Pre­mier Deb Matthews.

The prov­ince is as­sess­ing whether the ar­range­ment is the only one of its kind in On­tario.

The hid­den con­tract means Ron McKer­lie was paid a com­bined salary of $351,408.51 in 2015 when his foun­da­tion wages are added to the $260,208.67 he got from the col­lege.

That is 26 per cent more than what was pub­licly dis­closed on the Sun­shine List.

Matthews is call­ing on Mo­hawk’s lead­ers to “demon­strate in­tegrity” and make McKer­lie’s foun­da­tion con­tract pub­lic.

“If a col­lege ex­ec­u­tive is re­ceiv- ing two sep­a­rate salaries for the day-to-day func­tions of their col­lege and their foun­da­tion, their full com­pen­sa­tion for both po­si­tions should be made pub­lic,” said Matthews, min­is­ter of ad­vanced ed­u­ca­tion and skills de­vel­op­ment.

“I would urge full trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity.”

So far the prov­ince has found 12 out of 24 col­leges have pres­i­dents sit on foun­da­tion boards.

There’s no mech­a­nism to re­quest or ap­peal to get more de­tails be­cause the Foun­da­tion does not fall un­der Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act

“From a trans­parency and gov­er­nance per­spec­tive, I would say this is prob­a­bly not ap­pro­pri­ate.” MICHEL MAGNAN CHAIR IN COR­PO­RATE GOV­ER­NANCE, CON­COR­DIA UNIVER­SITY

But they haven’t yet seen a sit­u­a­tion where the pres­i­dent leads both or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“We are work­ing to con­firm com­pen­sa­tion in­for­ma­tion and to de­ter­mine next steps,” said Matthews.

McKer­lie was made pres­i­dent of Mo­hawk Col­lege and the foun­da­tion in 2014 and it was an­nounced at that time he would re­ceive two salaries. No fur­ther de­tails have been made pub­lic in the sub­se­quent years.

The foun­da­tion also had an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor paid in the range of $120,000 to $160,000 un­til Trevor Clark left sud­denly in Jan­uary.

McKer­lie did not com­ment on the se­cret con­tract. In­stead, a joint state­ment was given by Mo­hawk Board of Gov­er­nors chair Joe Parker and Gary Nel­son, chair of the foun­da­tion’s board of di­rec­tors.

“Ron is serv­ing as Pres­i­dent of the Col­lege and Foun­da­tion at a trans­for­ma­tional time for Mo­hawk, with sig­nif­i­cant projects un­der­way for the ben­e­fit of both our stu­dents and the com­mu­nity,” says the state­ment.

“Ron has brought strate­gic lead­er­ship to our fundrais­ing ini­tia­tives and has se­cured record gov­ern­ment in­vest­ments and do­na­tions to sup­port the largest ever re­newal of labs and class­rooms at all three of our cam­puses.”

McKer­lie was a long­time pub­lic ser­vant who served as On­tario’s deputy min­is­ter of open gov­ern­ment be­fore be­com­ing Mo­hawk’s pres­i­dent.

He is also chair of the board of di­rec­tors at Chris­tian-based char­ity World Vi­sion Canada and on the board of World Vi­sion In­ter­na­tional.

The Mo­hawk Foun­da­tion ini­tially re­fused to pro­vide his salary when The Spectator re­quested it Wed­nes­day.

His 2015 pay of $91,199.84 was only dis­closed Thurs­day af­ter The Spectator raised the is­sue with the prov­ince and got in­for­ma­tion about foun­da­tion salaries from the Canada Rev­enue Agency char­i­ties list­ing.

His pay in­cludes a per­for­mance bonus of up to 15 per cent and $3,200 in lieu of va­ca­tion.

His com­bined salary is ap­proach­ing the $401,000 wage cap the col­lege pro­posed for the pres­i­dent in De­cem­ber.

The prov­ince said that was too high and sent col­lege of­fi­cials back to the draw­ing board at the end of this past Jan­uary.

The foun­da­tion did not pro­vide McKer­lie’s salary for 2016 so it’s un­known if he was given a raise at a time ex­ec­u­tive com­pen­sa­tion was frozen by the prov­ince.

There is no way to know what is in his con­tract. The Broader Pub­lic Sec­tor Ex­ec­u­tive Com­pen­sa­tion Act bans perks like club mem­ber­ships for per­sonal recre­ation or so­cial­iz­ing, sea­son tick­ets, pro­fes­sional ad­vi­sory ser­vices, ac­cess to pri­vate health clin­ics or cloth­ing al­lowances.

How­ever, the foun­da­tion does not have to fol­low those rules.

The pub­lic only has ac­cess to the ex­penses he claims through the col­lege and can’t see what the foun­da­tion re­im­burses.

It says McKer­lie does not re­ceive ad­di­tional tax­able ben­e­fits but there is no way to con­firm that or know if it changes.

It’s not pos­si­ble to re­quest or ap­peal for more de­tails be­cause the foun­da­tion does not fall un­der Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act.

“It’s a le­gal loop­hole to ex­empt them­selves from pub­lic sec­tor con­straints,” said Michel Magnan, chair in cor­po­rate gov­er­nance at Con­cor­dia Univer­sity’s John Mol­son School of Busi­ness. “It might be le­gal, but is it the trans­par­ent or eth­i­cal thing to do?”

Magnan, who re­searches com­pen­sa­tion man­age­ment, says the foun­da­tion should have no is­sue be­ing up­front and dis­clos­ing the con­tract if there is noth­ing in it that goes against the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­pen­sa­tion Act.

“The fact that it’s se­cret and it’s ne­go­ti­ated be­hind closed doors de­feats the spirit of the law,” he said.

“From a trans­parency and gov­er­nance per­spec­tive, I would say this is prob­a­bly not ap­pro­pri­ate.”

The Cana­dian Coun­cil for the Ad­vance­ment in Ed­u­ca­tion can’t name any col­lege or univer­sity where the pres­i­dent leads both the school and the foun­da­tion.

“I can’t think of any school that is set up that way,” said ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mark Ha­zlett.

On­tario’s NDP party could not find any other broader pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ers in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

Hamilton Health Sci­ences, St. Joseph’s Health­care and McMaster Univer­sity all say their pres­i­dents and ex­ec­u­tive teams are not paid any­thing by their foun­da­tions.

“There is not a ‘sec­ond salary’ and the pres­i­dent’s full salary is re­ported each year on the sun­shine list,” said Gord Ar­beau, spokesper­son for McMaster.

“An im­por­tant part of the pres­i­dent’s role is to act as an am­bas­sador for McMaster and ad­vance the univer­sity’s rep­u­ta­tion and stand­ing, in­clud­ing sup­port­ing fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for univer­sity pri­or­i­ties.”

A state­ment from St. Joseph’s says CEO Kevin Smith and pres­i­dent Dr. David Hig­gins “are al­ways happy to speak and meet with donor groups and the com­mu­nity as part of their job.”

HHS says its lead­ers “vol­un­teer time” and make “per­sonal do­na­tions” to the foun­da­tion.

“It’s a key part of the job,” said Ha­zlett, speak­ing gen­er­ally about a pres­i­dent’s role in fundrais­ing.

“There is no doubt that pres­i­dents to­day across the coun­try are far more en­gaged in the fundrais­ing as­pects of the in­sti­tu­tion than they ever used to be.”

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