A former employee of the online college now known as the University of Maryland Global Campus received nearly $300,000 in termination payments that were not consistent with the institution’s policies, according to a report from the Office of Legislative Audits.
The report released Friday questions not only the university’s interpretation of a policy that allows employees to be placed on paid leave before being terminated, but it also questions the length of leave given to the unidentified employee. In a written response provided as part of the audit, university officials defended the action, saying they were allowed to pay the employee even though the employee asked to resign instead of being terminated.
The auditors’ findings said the university “lacked documentation that this was anything other than a voluntary termination,” adding that they questioned the university’s interpretation of the policy.
All regular exempt employees at the online institution, which serves nearly 56,000 students, are considered at-will employees.
Employees above the assistant vice president or assistant vice provost levels who are involuntarily separated for reasons other than cause can be placed on paid administrative leave for a period that ranges from one to 12 months.
Auditors looked at five payments under the policy totaling $733,000 that occurred between July 2014 and September 2018.
The review found one employee received $292,000 despite documentation that shows the unnamed employee left voluntarily and signed an agreement releasing the university from any future claims.
“In total, the employee received compensation for 11 months of administrative leave under what was documented as a voluntary separation, notwithstanding the fact that, based on this employee’s length of service, the policy would have only provided for a maximum of nine months of leave for involuntary separation,” according to the auditor’s report.
The auditor’s report called on the university to clarify its policy.
In a written response submitted by University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret, university officials defended the payment.
“The employee referenced in this finding was released by the president and as stated in the release was ‘permitted to resign’ in lieu of termination,” the university wrote. “This was not a voluntary resignation. Even though we disagree with the finding because it was explicit in the release that the employee was ‘permitted to resign,’ (the university) will clarify the policy regarding the permissibility of making payments under these circumstances and seek approval from the Board of Regents.”