TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A probe ordered by Gov. Rick Scott in the wake of a scandal that led to the departure of Florida Community College at Jacksonville President Steven Wallace has determined that the pay and benefits of state college presidents varies widely with little explanation as to why some presidents earn large six-figure salaries.
This same review shows many presidents have contracts with provisions that appear to violate law -- or in some instances, the contracts automatically renew each year without approval by local college boards.
Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Florida College System, said the critical review is prompting college boards across the state to alter and amend the contracts now offered to presidents.
Scott last year ordered his chief inspector general to review the salaries and benefits offered to the 28 presidents in the state college system after trustees at FSCJ agreed to a $1.2 million severance package with Wallace.
The probe did not cover the salaries and benefits paid to presidents at the state's 12 public universities -- which include schools such as University of Florida or Florida State University.
The final report released Monday showed that presidents in the state college system are receiving nearly $10 million in salaries and benefits during the current fiscal year.
Some of the salaries range from nearly $144,000 to more than $630,000 to the president at Miami-Dade College.
The report found that Wallace's $328,243 base salary made him the second highest-paid presidents among the 28 state colleges in the state.
State law limits college president salaries to $225,000 if the money comes directly from state taxpayers. But colleges are allowed to augment the salary with money from other sources.
Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel noted that in some instances the total amount of pay and benefits offered to presidents "was not readily transparent" or that some contracts offered benefits for life which means the total owed by taxpayers is difficult to calculate.
Some college presidents get car allowances, or housing allowances or medical insurance premiums. One former president at a college in Bradenton received nearly $21,000 in insurance premiums.
Miguel's probe also noted that most colleges had contracts that appear to violate state laws designed to restrict severance packages paid to presidents who either resign voluntarily or are forced to leave their job. Many of these contracts included provisions that would allow a president to receive a payout above what is allowed in law.
Additionally, 11 colleges had so-called "rolling" contracts that automatically renewed each year without requiring a vote by college trustees. Only eight colleges tied contracts to performance goals.