Mike Garrison’s "resignation" today as president of West Virginia University
presents a timely opportunity to review his employment agreement, including its provisions for severance pay. I put resignation in quotation marks not to be sarcastic, but because Garrison’s announcement about his departure was vague. Here is Garrison’s statement, in which he says that he will stay in office until September (presumably September 1), but for whatever reason, does not affirmatively state he is resigning.
There was some question whether September was chosen in order to entitle Garrison to additional or supplemental compensation if he stayed in office at least one year (he took office on September 1, 2007, which was moved up from his original start date of September 21). Here is the May 10, 2007 letter from the West Virginia University Board of Governors to Garrison, which serves as his employment agreement.
The agreement, which describes Garrison’s service as "at the will and pleasure of the Board," requires him, in the event of his resignation, to give "at least sixty days notice before [his] last day in the office." Garrison’s term as president under the agreement was scheduled to end on June 30, 2010.
This recent article in the Daily Mail reported that Garrison would receive his yearly salary of $255,000 if he was discharged without cause by the Board of Governors prior to June 30, 2008. If he was discharged without cause after June 30, 2008 but before June 30, 2010, he would be entitled to six months’ salary. A termination for cause, as defined in the employment agreement, would not entitle Garrison to any further compensation.
Because the employment agreement is silent regarding any compensation owed to Garrison if he resigns, he is entitled to only his annual compensation and associated benefits through the remainder of his time as president.
I think Garrison’s decision not to state that he is resigning has some significance, but I cannot see how he is entitled to continued compensation as WVU’s president after he voluntarily leaves the position, regardless of how he describes his departure.