Paterno tops Penn State's biggest wage-earners

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When it comes to total compensation received from his employer, Penn State University's iconic football coach Joe Paterno remains his school's big man on campus.

Mr. Paterno, school president Graham Spanier and three health-related professionals are the university's five highest paid employees, according to newly released tax data.

Penn State, long exempt from revealing what any of its employees are paid, now must identify its biggest earners under the state's expanded Right to Know Law, which took effect in January 2009.


It requires the university to provide the same data asked of nonprofits on the Internal Revenue Service Form 990, a federal document that Penn State has never before been required to file. The expanded state law also compels Penn State to list its 25 highest salaried employees and what those salaries are.

According to Penn State's filing, which for pay purposes covered calendar year 2008, Mr. Paterno earned the most in total compensation -- a sum of $1,109,977 in pay and benefits that included a base salary of $540,942. He also topped the list when Penn State released its first right-to-know request last year.

The next four highest compensated by the university include:

• Harold Paz, Hershey Medical Center chief executive officer, whose $938,420 in total compensation includes a base salary of $643,002.

• Robert Harbaugh, chair of the department of neurosurgery, whose $825,196 in total compensation includes $685,834 in base salary.

• Dr. Spanier, whose $799,386 in total compensation includes $605,004 in base salary.

• Alan Brechbill, Hershey Medical Center executive director, whose $719,130 in total compensation includes a base salary of $582,035.

For years, the mystery surrounding what Penn State paid Mr. Paterno became a popular talking point for backers of an expanded Right-to-Know Law in Pennsylvania. They argued that the state's flagship public university ought to disclose more about its taxpayer-supported operation.

It also drove some sports fans to wild speculation as to what "Joe Pa" really makes.

As it turns out, at least for calendar year 2008, his university compensation was not the highest reported, even among peers in the western half of the state. Information disclosed by the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday indicated that Pitt's head basketball coach James P. Dixon II received $1,389,951 in total university compensation, including $629,792 in base pay.

Penn State's tax filing did not identify officers or trustees of the university who have relatives employed by Penn State. Pitt provided that information in its tax filing, citing revised IRS rules this year.

Geoff Rushton, a Penn State spokesman, said Friday that school trustees and a consultant who worked with Penn State on its right-to-know filing authorized alternative language. Later Friday, he said an attorney for the university would be taking a second look at the requirement to be sure.

The language used in Penn State's filing was:

"The University knows of no significant transactions between it and any person described in the question other than transactions in the normal course of its activities. All such transactions are conducted at arm's length for good and sufficient consideration and the University believes that the terms and conditions of any such transactions have been fair and reasonable."

The expanded state law also requires the other state-related schools -- Lincoln and Temple universities and Pitt -- to divulge their top 25 employee salaries. Those schools already filed IRS Form 990s.

Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977.


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