Editorial: UConn hush money must end

"It is unfortunate that the university is run in such a way that it would have to worry about litigation or defamation from former employees." (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut makes a significant amount of the state’s hush money payments, according to this year’s audit report. These agreements are created largely to avoid negative discussion and legal actions against the university. This not only displays a flaw in the usage of university funds, but also demonstrations that the university runs itself in a manner that must be concealed.

The university has continued to pay many of its employees for months after they have stopped working, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars for each employee. One example of this kind of action was with Professor Robin Barnes, who left the university Nov. 1, 2014 and continued to be paid half of her regular salary, plus benefits, until Oct. 31 of the following year. This equated to more than $96,000. There are multiple recent examples of these kinds of payments, including the university’s executive vice president for administration and chief financial officer, Richard Gray, who retired in June of 2014 but received a lump sum from a six month compensation of about $138,000. With tuition rising consistently, this seems to be an excessive drain on university funds.  

Some of the employees who make these agreements sign contracts agreeing not to sue the university for breaking equal employment laws, such as the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Others agree to non-disparagement clauses, which prohibit former employees from speaking negatively about UConn. It is unfortunate that the university is run in such a way that it would have to worry about litigation or defamation from former employees.

Both this year and last, Auditor John Geragosian has suggested that the General Assembly pass a bill prohibiting executive branch agencies, boards and commissions, which would include the university, from making these agreements without authorization of the attorney general or governor. It passed in the Senate and the House with 114-3 votes, but Gov. Dan Malloy vetoed it. This bill should have been passed into law. It would have kept the university responsible for its actions, while directing money toward more productive uses. Despite Gov. Malloy's veto, the university's agreements are still public. With the knowledge of its past contracts aired, it must make an attempt to reduce the frequency of these agreements while fostering a relationship with its employees that makes these agreements unnecessary.