Last week, I wrote about the peculiar wording of Mike Garrison’s announcement that he was stepping down as West Virginia University’s president, in which he avoided using the word “resign” to describe his departure. It seemed that there was a reason that he did not affirmatively state that he was resigning, which was reinforced by the statement issued by the WVU Board of Governors (it follows Garrison’s statement), which acknowledged his departure from the position without using the word “resign” to describe his action. (I sent an e-mail to Garrison last Saturday, asking if there was any reason he didn’t use the word "resign" in his announcement, but he has not responded.)
West Virginia Public Radio posted this article on its website on Wednesday, which suggests that Garrison is not resigning from his position as WVU president, even though he may not be in the position after September 1.
I wrote earlier that because Garrison’s employment agreement is silent regarding any compensation owed to him if he resigns, he is entitled to only his annual compensation and associated benefits though September 1.
That was accurate, but incomplete, because the period of time that is now relevant is between September 1, 2008 and June 30, 2010, when Garrison’s contract with the BOG expires. And his compensation for that period of time appears to be set by paragraph 16:
Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 7 [which makes Garrison responsible to the BOG through its chairman], the Board commits to employ you as its President, or in some other capacity, in a position to be determined by it, at the Presidential salary provided for herein and as increased from time to time by the Board, for a term ending on June 30, 2010, unless (i) you voluntarily resign or retire, or (ii) you are terminated, all as provided for herein.
So it looks like the careful avoidance of the word “resign” was no accident, and was intended to enable Garrison to continue to receive his salary of at least $255,000 per year, working in some other capacity, until June 30, 2010.
Corporations and businesses negotiate severance packages and golden parachutes with departing executives as a matter of course. On Thursday, two executives at Lehman Brothers were removed from their positions, and reassigned elsewhere in the company.
But the difference between a corporation such as Lehman Brothers and WVU, among many others, is that a corporation is answerable in such matters only to its shareholders, while a public educational institution does not have such a limited constituency. If the speculation about Garrison’s future is correct, and we may not know for sure until much closer to September 1, there will be significant opposition to his continued employment by the BOG.