The excellent chancellor of the University of Maryland is too kind. Human failing, bad judgment, all very nice, but let’s call it what it was: Greed.

I mean, the dean of the UM law school ran the place. So… what was it John Kenneth Galbraith said about corporate compensation? “The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.”

State university system officials have asked the former dean of the University of Maryland School of Law to return $60,000 in unauthorized compensation and have referred questionable payments totaling $410,000, which were revealed by a state legislative audit, to the attorney general’s office for review.

Chancellor William E. Kirwan revealed those actions and apologized for the audit’s findings at a hearing Thursday before the House subcommittee on education and economic development. He pinned responsibility for the $410,000 in payments on the recipient, former law dean Karen Rothenberg, and on David J. Ramsay, departing president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore…

Yes, Ramsay, like SUNY Binghamton’s Lois DeFleur, is getting his ass out of there toot sweet. “Rothenberg could not be reached for comment Thursday. The university said Ramsay will not be granting any interviews.” Legislators “could recommend withholding some of UMB’s $182 million budget, pending action on the audit items.” They’re waiting to see whether Rothenberg will cough up the $60,000 — first installment toward an ultimate payback of all the hundreds of thousands.

Details here. “[W]hen a highly paid employee of a state university receives an extra 350 large in a single year, and nobody tells the legislature, shouldn’t a state university president expect a report like this to follow?”

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Update: Financial details on the scandal here. Here’s the heart of it:

Rothenberg’s base compensation is listed in university records as being the following: 8/2003: $288,925; 8/2004: $304,161; 8/2005: $327,246; 8/2006: $365,000; 7/2007: $408,450; 7/2008: $485,778; 9/2009: $485,778.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on Median Salaries of College Administrators By Job Category and Type of Institution 2008-09. For law deans, the median salary reported is $266,895.

Rothenberg’s base salary, already above the 2008-09 median in 2003, increased 68% in the next 6 years. It increased 33% in just the two years between 2006 and 2008 (so much for the argument that the whopping additional payment in 2007 that was disguised as a sabbatical payment was somehow necessary as a retention bonus).

Her current reported salary ($485,778) nearly doubles the national average for the position. It is 2.33 times the salary earned by the next highest paid tenured faculty member at the law school (which is $208,055). It is 4.4 times the salary earned by new faculty members at the law school ($110,000).

Rothenberg never earned a salary greater than $200,000 at UMD before being named the interim dean. She never had a minute of administrative experience as a dean or an associate dean at any law school before her appointment. She never appeared as a finalist in any dean search at any other law school in the U.S. during her tenure. She left the UMD deanship without another administrative position anywhere to go to. And yet, in just 7 years of being the dean, she earned more than $2.5 million dollars, not including the extra sabbatical and research grant payments questioned in the audit, and not including the value of expense accounts and benefits….

[These numbers] are completely off the charts — they are wholly outside and beyond any standard industry practice or customary compensation policy at American law schools.

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