Dennis Ferguson, D-Harriman, on Thursday cited as most extravagant the "president emeritus" pay and benefit packages for Joe Johnson
and Ed Boling as former University of Tennessee
...Johnson and UT officials - along with House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh - said the arrangements for presidents emeritus are appropriate.
...Johnson retired as UT president in 1999 and served as a salaried "president emeritus" until August 2003, when he returned to the UT helm to serve as interim president until a permanent successor is chosen. Under his contract as president emeritus, Johnson was being paid $65,790 per year - 30 percent of his base salary at the time he initially retired as president - and provided with a car valued at $9,000 per year.
Under the Cohen-Ferguson bill, the car would be eliminated and the salary set at 10 percent of the current university president's base salary, excluding any bonuses.That would have translated to $36,500 for Johnson in his service as president emeritus during the tenure of former UT President John Shumaker, whose base salary was $365,000.
also received other benefits under his contract that would not be impacted by the legislation as drafted, though both Cohen and Ferguson said they will consider adding other reductions through amendments.
Other benefits paid Johnson
as president emeritus included:
...Johnson ceased drawing his emeritus salary when he became interim president, though he may resume that role after a successor is named.
July 1 is the target date for naming a new UT
"It's just such a cushy thing that it's not really in the taxpayer's best interests or the university's best interests," said Cohen.
Ferguson said Johnson
is "a great guy and a good president," but "that's just too much money."
, who was in Nashville Thursday to testify before a legislative budget hearing, said the practice of paid presidents emeritus dates back to Andy Holt.
"At the same time, there ought to be some financial reward for doing that," Johnson
declined to say whether he
would resume his
status as president emeritus after a successor is named, should the Cohen-Ferguson bill pass and reduce the benefits.He
was "not petulant" about the bill and declined to criticize it directly.
"It's just one of those things that needs to be put out there and discussed and see what people want to do with it," Johnson
said. Emerson H. "Eli" Fly, who formerly served as interim UT president and is currently interim executive vice president and chief financial officer for the university, said the services of Johnson and Boling as presidents emeritus had been much needed.
doesn't deserve to get beat on.
..."If we hadn't had Joe Johnson there and his fund-raising efforts, well, there's no telling what would have happened to UT in the Shumaker situation."