Olympia, Friday, January 30, 2009. Report by Laurel Piippo:
Friday's headlines screamed, "President Says $18 Billion in bonuses 'shameful.'"
In Olympia, I screamed NO 500,000 $ BONUS FOR THE PRESIDENT OF WSU!
Public indignation at executives receiving bloated salaries and outrageous bonuses is at its peak. In public universities such reckless spending is intolerable.
Therefore, I took a bill to Olympia and named it The Out of Touch Bonus Bill: "No public university chief executive shall be awarded a bonus without approval by the legislature and signed by the governor."
This is a non-partisan win/win proposed law that costs the state nothing, saves half million dollars for the state, makes a hero out of every legislator who votes for it, and recognizes the need for economy in hard times. It's also a comeuppance to a CEO whose mismanagement created a huge mess at taxpayer expense.
Before leaving Olympia, I was told that Rep. Larry Haler assigned a bill-writing intern the job of providing proper legalese for "my" bill..
Friday Carol Moser met me at the Capitol Building and spent four hours leading me through the labyrinth of legislative contacts.
She had an appointment for us to meet with Rep. Phyllis Kinney, former chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. Kinney saw to it that WSU Tri-Cities became a four-year institution. Kinney looked at my "Cheapo-Piippo, Cranky Taxpayer" business card and read my proposed bill. I gave her a letter detailing reasons for citizen outrage at the "WSU Provost Fiasco" and a copy of an article in USA TODAY exposing how the university president and his bad hire made WSU a national joke.
Rep. Kinney' response to the bill was so positive that I jumped two feet in the air and squealed with glee the minute we were out the door.
Deb Wallace, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, overscheduled and with no time for an appointment, stepped outside her office and accepted my paperwork. Carol asked if she would sponsor the bill, and Wallace replied that she is asking other legislators to sponsor bills she favors. Wallace's job is to decide if bills should be heard and voted on and get out of committee.
Our appointment with Derek Killmer (sp?), chairman of the House Higher education Committee, reduced itself to two minutes. On the run he read my bill, took the other paperwork, and dashed off.
You may not like what legislators sometimes do, but rest assured they work hard all the time. I caught a glimpse of Rep. Haler with Rep. Klippert at a hearing, but no chance to talk with them. Rep. Haler reads my voluminous emails and puts them in a "Laurel" file. He and his staff have been very receptive.
Sen. Delvin was in his office where we asked about a bill written by Dr. William Kinsel, engineering professor at WSU Tri-Cities. Two more engineering professors are desperately needed. Ex-Provost Hoch's bloated $245,000 salary for teaching a dozen students one class could pay for three or four full-time needed professors in the engineering department. Sen. Delvin said he has talked to WSU Tri-Cities chancellor Dr. Vicky Carwein and Frank Armijo (sp?) of the WSU Advisory Council, who said they are working on it. Therefore, a bill may not be needed. Since Kinsel asked WSU leadership last September to provide sufficient faculty or close the program, why the delay in hiring needed staff? God knows the president throws money around for a history teacher and lots of administrators. Kinsel's bill also asks for citizen input.
What catapulted me to Olympia as a volunteer citizen lobbyist is the WSU president's $500,000 retention bonus to be paid in 2012, apparently regardless of job performance. The president hired a $300,000 provost without checking his references or reading his contract. Result: WSU Tri-Cities is stuck with a demoted provost being paid $245,000 to teach a class of a dozen students Russian history. And we taxpayers must pay for his mistakes, plus give him a bonus?.
"THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW," I howled, but what can an irate citizen taxpayer really do? The "system," according to Chris Allejano, whom I visited in the Governor's Executive Policy Office on Friday, is that the Governor appoints a Board of Regents who hires a president and gives him few million of our tax dollars to do with as he sees fit with no accountability.
"As the president sees fit" wasn't "fitten."
What about a citizen oversight board, I asked. The Board of Regents is the citizen oversight, explained Allejano.
O n January 19 at my request Rep. Larry Haler asked for a copy of the ousted provost's contract and job description. No response. We asked again. No response. Friday in Olympia we asked a third time. I also want copies of the contract and job description of the president of WSU, a line item copy of the WSU budget, the ratio of administrators to professors and students; and by the way why haven't adjunct professors had a raise in 18 years? Yet the president was offered a $125,000 raised in addition to his $623,000 salary.
How compliant and stupid and indifferent do they think we citizens are? Do the arrogant Powers That Be really think this will all blow away by blowing us off? Chairman of the WSU Board of Regents seem to think we are, reassuring questioners that "it will all blow over." [See email from Duane Pepiot, if you can find it. I had his exact quotation, but Compter Demon took it away.]
If we're being stonewalled by lack of information, my volunteer lawyer will advise me the Freedom of Information Act.
I called Jim Brittain at the State auditor's office, but he gets 500 emails a day and had not yet read mine. I'll send it snail mail on Monday. Brittain is in charge of the "Whistle Blower" program that investigates "gross waste of public funds" and "improper governmental action defined as an action by a state employee that results in a gross misuse of public funds." I want to know when WSU was audited. and will go back to Olympia in a week or two to find out, if my energy returns.
By that time I hope to have an officially accepted legislative bill in the works for me to support. If so, a class at CBC wants to go with me and lobby. Dear Reader Citizen Taxpayer, uou come, too. It's the American way.
Acknowledgments: Initial research by anonymous professional researcher. Lawyer, Robert Rice, retired, cousin in Minnesota. Patty Heasler and Laurence Ernst, good wine, enormous research and time and suggestions way over my head, and the essence of "my" bill. Carol Moser (former student) time and expertise, connections, background knowledge, friendship. Transportation, food, hauling me up and down stairs, two other citizen lobbyists from the Tri-Cities, Glenn Stevens and Kelly McBride, who want their pension rights restored. Overnight accommodations in Chehalis with former student Shawn Bates and her husband. Big hugs and smiles and "let's go to dinner next time you're here" from former student Jim Jesernig who could not help me write a bill because he's a paid lobbyist for WSU. Many others you have already heard about.