The Connecticut Office of the State Comptroller has revealed the top paid Connecticut state employees for 2022. UConn employees, which include many UConn Health faculty, take up the top 24 spots and dominate a vast-majority of the top 100 highest-paid Connecticut state employees from last year.
The 2022 payroll release by the Connecticut Office of the State Comptroller also revealed a previously secret seven-figure arbitration settlement between UConn and former Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology Dr. Li Wang.
Dr. Li Wang ranked at No. 6 for the highest-paid state employees last year with $1,398,674 earned in 2022, as a result of the arbitration settlement.
First revealed by an investigative report by the CT Insider, Wang received a $1.4 million settlement last year from UConn for wrongful termination. UConn cited her 2019 suspension as due to a “failure to disclose Chinese connections on NIH grant applications.”
According to documents obtained by The Daily Campus, in 2018 the United States Office of Research Integrity found Wang had engaged in research misconduct on a variety of grant applications.
“ORI finds that [Wang] engaged in research misconduct by recklessly including false data… In addition to making an admission, [Wang] cooperated fully with UConn and ORI, has expressed remorse for her actions, and took full responsibility for her reckless behavior,” a 2018 Voluntary Settlement Agreement signed by Wang and UConn stated.
This spotlight on Wang’s grant applications led to UConn being notified of an apparent undisclosed “foreign affiliation” between Wang and the Chinese Wenzhou Medical University.
In March of 2019, UConn Associate Vice President for Research Michelle Williams notified Wang by letter that she was being suspended for three years as a result of this apparent affiliation.
However, a subsequent investigation in 2021 by the American Arbitration Association found that Wang was improperly suspended and had no apparent ties to Wenzhou Medical University. As a result, the university was forced to pay back her lost wages.
Despite the American Arbitration Association’s conclusion, UConn still stands by its stance that Wang was improperly affiliated with Wenzhou Medical University.
While Wang ranked at No. 6, UConn athletics faculty dominated the top 5 highest paid employees. Former UConn men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie took the No. 1 spot with $11,157,033 made in 2022. However, this is an “anomaly” according to interactive graphics reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media Group Taylor Johnston.
“Kevin Ollie, former UConn men’s basketball coach received the highest payout from the state in 2022 at nearly $11.15 million. But that was an anomaly. The one-time sum came from an arbitration case he won against the school in early 2022 after claiming he was wrongfully terminated from his role in 2018,” Johnston wrote for the CT Insider.
The second through fourth highest-paid state employees in 2022 were also UConn athletics coaches. UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma ranked at No. 2 with $3,795,830 earned; UConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley ranked at No. 3 with $3,111,704 earned; and UConn Football’s head coach Jim Mora ranked No. 4 with $1,597,098 earned in 2022.
Other UConn Athletics faculty ranked in the top 24. David Benedict, Director of Athletics at UConn ranked at #14 with $884,204 earned in 2022 while UConn Men’s Basketball Assistant head coach Kimani Young ranked at No. 18 with $747,974 earned in 2022. While the rest of the top 24 were directly affiliated with UConn, they all consisted of UConn Health faculty.
When asked why UConn Health faculty dominates the list with such high salaries, UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz pointed out that these faculty members bring in essential UConn Health revenue.
“In fact, the five UConn Health physicians on the list collectively generated more than $20 million in 2022 in clinical care revenue for UConn Health — nearly quadruple their total combined salaries. From 2016 to 2022, these same five physicians collectively generated $60.7 million in clinical revenue, and overall, UConn Health’s 10 highest paid faculty have brought in more than $140 million in clinical revenue in the same timeframe,” Reitz said. “This revenue is critical to UConn Health, since about 50% of its revenues come from its clinical operation and state support accounts about 25%.”
Reitz also pointed out that these UConn Health faculty members often give back to the university in the form of philanthropic gifts.
“In addition to generating clinical revenue and donating their time for the free community health care and screening programs, some UConn Health physicians give back with philanthropic gifts. For example, Dr. Maritza Perez recently donated an estimated $1 million worth of high-tech laser equipment — roughly the equivalent of her annual compensation in the list — from her former private dermatology practice so UConn Health can establish a new laser center,” Reitz said.
While the rest of the top 100 state employees consisted mostly of UConn Health faculty along with a few other Connecticut employees from varying state organizations, other UConn faculty ranked in the top 100 as well.
For 2022, President of the UConn Radenka Maric ranked at No. 32 with $599,037 earned, UConn Men’s Hockey head coach Mike Cavanaugh ranked at No. 36 with $586,675 earned and Dean of the UConn School of Business John Elliott ranked at No. 60 with $508,919 earned in 2022.
Finishing off the top 100, UConn Baseball’s head coach Jim Penders also ranked at No. 84 with $470,332 earned while Professor and Toscano Family Chair in Finance Yiming Qian ranked No. 99 with $444,013 earned in 2022.
Speaking more broadly, Reitz also said that these high figures reflect the national market for these professions.
“As a large public research institution, UConn competes for talent against other public and private institutions throughout the U.S., and pay is driven by national and regional markets along with the experience and skill set of each individual. This applies across the board to researchers, administrators, coaches, physicians and others whose skills are in high demand and whose talents have helped to elevate UConn to its current high ranks in various areas,” Reitz stated.