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Md. university regents likely to change policies after Caret bonus

Dr. Robert L. Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Dr. Robert L. Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

After a $75,000 bonus and $30,000 salary increase awarded to University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret earlier this year drew criticism from lawmakers, the system’s Board of Regents will consider changing its policies.

Board Chair James T. Brady told a joint hearing of House and Senate subcommittees Thursday that when the panel next meets in September, he will recommend that the board stop using the “bonus alternative” for the chancellor.

“That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with that alternative, but I think there are better ways to accomplish our objectives,” Brady said.

The presidents of the system’s institutions — most of whom were also given raises — are currently ineligible for bonuses, but their prior-year performance is taken into consideration when the regents set their salaries each year.

Caret drew a base salary of $600,000 for his first year as chancellor, which began in July 2015. His contract calls for a 5 percent annual raise and a possible annual performance bonus of up to 15 percent – or $90,000 for his first year. The $75,000 bonus he received was equal to 12.5 percent of his salary.

Information sought

The board voted award Caret the raise and bonus at a closed-door meeting in June.  While the results of that meeting were made available when requested by The Daily Record, the lack of a more public announcement drew concern from lawmakers, some of whom wanted more information about the decision to award the bonus.

“At a time when we’re raising tuitions, the questions come to us as to, ‘OK why the chancellor is getting all this increase,’” Sen. Nancy J. King, D-Montgomery County, explained at Thursday’s hearing. “It’s really hard to justify to the students.”

At King’s request, Brady explained that some of the reasons regents felt Caret deserved the bonus include his increased outreach to make sure people around the state understood what the system can offer and his work with lawmakers to develop a compromise regarding a controversial proposal to more closely link the University of Maryland, College Park with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, a proposal that some feared would lead to a merger of the two campuses.

Caret previously served as president of the University of Massachusetts system and spent eight years as president of Towson University. Since returning to Maryland, he has made improving the systemwide college completion rate and strengthening its economic development endeavors two of his top priorities.

Brady also told lawmakers that he’ll recommend that when the board of regents votes on salaries or compensation adjustments in the future, the decisions be announced immediately, rather than simply provided upon request, as has been done in the past.

“Taken together, I believe these steps address your concerns related to the chancellor’s compensation,” Brady said. “When questions are raised about our practices and procedures, we take them very seriously.”