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Ex-law dean Rothenberg got to keep 30% raise

Karen H. Rothenberg

Karen H. Rothenberg’s base salary increased more than 30 percent — from $370,000 to nearly $500,000 — in her final two years as dean of Maryland’s highest-ranked law school, and stayed at that level until this January as part of a “transition agreement” back to the faculty.

Figures supplied by the University of Maryland in Baltimore show that Rothenberg had a base salary of $485,778 for fiscal year 2010, which began July 1, 2009. That’s the same salary she had in fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30, 2009 — the day Rothenberg stepped down after a decade as dean of what is now the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Ed Fishel, a University of Maryland spokesman who provided the salary data, said Rothenberg’s “transition agreement” compensated her as if she were dean for 18 months after she stepped down.

Rothenberg was on sabbatical for the last six months of 2009 and then served as a special adviser to the university president for all of 2010.

As Jan. 1, Rothenberg has returned to the faculty at a salary of approximately $250,000, according to Fishel. Rothenberg taught a health and science policy workshop during the recently completed spring semester.

Frank A. Casagrande, a compensation consultant for higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations, said such transition agreements are not uncommon. Casagrande, who was not involved in any of Rothenberg’s salary discussions, is based in Georgia and works primarily with private schools.

“If she’s being expected to consult at a leadership level, these are reasonable terms and conditions,” he said. “The bigger question is how the law school and how the university were served with her available.”

Casagrande added the university might also have wanted to keep Rothenberg available in case there were any problems after six months with her replacement.

Dean Phoebe A. Haddon’s base salary was $350,000 for fiscal year 2010, according to data supplied by the Comptroller of Maryland and compiled by The Baltimore Sun. Phillip J. Closius, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, had a base salary of more than $278,000, according to that data.

Like other state employees, Rothenberg, Haddon and Closius lost some of their base pay for fiscal 2010 because of mandatory furlough days.

As Rothenberg drew her 2010 salary, a regular audit of the university found she received $410,000 in “questionable compensation payments” between 2007 and 2009, $350,000 of which was approved by then-President David J. Ramsay in 2007 for sabbatical leave Rothenberg did not take. The amount is listed as a “retention payment” in university data provided by Fishel; the University System of Maryland has previously said it offers “retention amounts” to sought-after faculty members.

Larry S. Gibson, a law school professor for 36 years, told The Daily Record last year the money was to ensure Rothenberg remained dean at Maryland when other job opportunities arose in 2005 and 2006. (Gibson was speaking for himself, not the law school.)

Rothenberg returned $60,000 in early 2010 at the request of the University System of Maryland for teaching summer classes. She returned more than $311,000 last December in a settlement that closed the Maryland attorney general’s investigation of the payments.

Rothenberg’s base salary for fiscal year 2007 was more than $370,000, but her total compensation was more than double because of the retention payment.

Her base salary grew to more than $420,000 in 2008 before reaching $485,778 the following year.

Rothenberg did lose taxable benefits of $36,000 to $38,421 a year when she stepped down as dean. That amount was added to her base compensation for fiscal years 2006 through 2009.


  1. Good story as far as it goes, but you also should consider how Rothenberg’s salary went from an average law school dean’ salary to one of the highest in the country very quickly into her deanship, seemingly without the review and approval of the Regents. That run up increased the size of her money grab considerably. In fact, given the numbers ultimately involved, giving back $60K was a little like leaving a $20 tip for the waiter after a dinner for six at Charleston (with wine).

    As for why this happened, one would think Rothenberg would be gone from the Law School if she was all that marketable, as Professor Gibson claims. Her presence makes most uncomfortable, and it can’t be that pleasant for her. If President Ramsey increased her salary to retain her, that probably says more about President Ramsey’s negotiation skill than Rothenberg’s employment options. Professor Gibson has said many strange things in public over the years, but this is right up there with his best. He hasn’t lost any of his mastery of smoke and mirrors, or developed any greater affection for empirical argument.

  2. It’s hard for a taxpayer like me to comprehened Dean Karen Rothenberg’s greed and shamelessness. According to this article, she was paid $485,000 for being a “special adviser to the university president” in 2010. But President Ramsey already had been forced to resign for authorizing other “questionable payments” to Rothenberg before she returned to campus from her sabbatical that year. In other words, Rothenberg took $485,000 in 2010 for being special adviser to nobody and doing nothing. Meantime, the new dean, Phoebe Hadden, got $350,000 for running the whole law school and trying to clean up the mess that Rothenberg had left behind. Now Rothenberg continues to make $250,000 a year for teaching a single seminar.

    Prof. Larry Gibson’s argument that the Law School needed to pay Rothenberg all this money as a “retention bonus” is silly. There’s no evidence that she ever contemplated leaving the only law school where she’d ever had a job, much less that any other school wanted to hire her. Of course, Prof. Gibson is devoted to Dean Rothenberg because she also allowed him to collect a hefty salary for doing nearly nothing at the Law School while he worked full-time at a private law firm and as a paid political consultant. The database in this week’s Sun says he earned $153,000 in 2010 for his 5-hour a week job at the Law School with summers off.

    The saddest part of this episode is that Dean Rothenberg implemented the largest tuition increases in the Law School’s history while skyrocketing her own salary. Now students are left working harder than ever to make ends meet while Dean Rothenberg and her clique continue to do little work and collect huge salaries at the expense of taxpayers and students.