Despite being fired in May, former California University of Pennsylvania president Angelo Armenti Jr. was the State System of Higher Education's top earner in 2012, his $376,560 in total pay due mostly to unused leave and severance, system records show.
Mr. Armenti's total earnings eclipsed those of State System chancellor John Cavanaugh, who made $326,495 last year, according to payroll records for both men and thousands of other system employees obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through the state's Right-to-Know Law.
The State System's third-highest earner last year was James Rudisill, head swimming coach at West Chester University, with total pay of $262,359. That included his $68,964 salary plus $126,310 in "dual compensation" for running swimming camps and related instruction that produced income for university athletic scholarships, said Pam Sheridan, a spokeswoman for West Chester.
The coach also received a $67,084 award related to a grievance, the details of which Ms. Sheridan said she could not discuss.
Rounding out the top five earners were Robert Dillman, who retired in June as president of East Stroudsburg University and James Pesek, who retired in September from the deanship of Clarion University's college of business administration. Their total earnings of $244,812 and $244,722, respectively, included salary and unused leave, State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said Thursday.
In all, records provided to the Post-Gazette show that 2,031 State System employees made $100,000 or more last year, including 1,720 faculty, 297 managers and executives, and 14 coaches. A total of 16,000 full- and part-time employees work for the system and its 14 member schools, which enroll 115,000 students statewide and include California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.
Mr. Armenti, who served as Cal U president for two decades, was the longest-tenured among the 14 sitting presidents until he was fired the day before release of an auditors' report that questioned certain university financial practices. State System officials later said Mr. Armenti was fired for cause but have not publicly stated a reason.
Mr. Armenti contends he was wrongly fired, and in October he filed a federal lawsuit against State System officials and the head of the Cal U chapter of the faculty union, alleging his civil rights were violated. Mr. Armenti declined comment Thursday.
The former president, whose yearly salary was $227,160, received upon dismissal "only what he was contractually entitled to," Mr. Marshall said Thursday. "That included six months of salary beyond his termination date.
"Everything else he got is what any other employee would receive upon leaving the system," Mr. Marshall added.
In 2012, Mr. Armenti earned $94,069 in salary before his May 17 firing, according to State System records. In addition to $113,232 in salary for the six months after his firing, Mr. Armenti received $120,194 in unused sick leave, $39,193 in unused annual leave and $870 for working on a holiday, the records show.
For State System faculty, who are represented by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), top pay rates range from $107,870 for full professors to $66,222 for instructors. However, faculty can earn additional income by teaching more than four courses a semester, by teaching summer courses, or by taking on additional duties such as being a department chair or developing and teaching distance courses, Mr. Marshall said.
The 1,720 faculty earning $100,000 and up represent about 35 percent of the full-time faculty, he said.
The faculty's last contract expired June 2011, and negotiations between APSCUF and State System management resume today. A spokeswoman in Harrisburg for the union could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday.
State System records show the largest earner in 2012 among the faculty was Kathleen Benson, recently retired as department chair of middle and high school education within Edinboro's school of education, with total pay of $204,296. Ms. Benson could not immediately be reached for comment, and additional details about her earnings were not available.
At West Chester, Ms. Sheridan said 50 percent of registrations from the swimming campus and related instruction went toward athletic scholarships. The rest went to pay campus expenses including counselor pay, and anything left over went to Mr. Rudisill, whose swimming program is nationally ranked.
Ron Cowell, a former state legislator who is president of the Education Policy and Leadership Council based in Harrisburg, said the State System and its individual universities have not spent recklessly on pay. He said the highest earners last year appeared to be either in one-time events like the firing and retirements or were involved in extra duties like the swimming campus.
State System faculty "work a fairly decent workload including time in class," he said. "If you're a freshman taking freshman English at a State System university, you've got a full-time faculty member in front of you, not teaching assistants."
Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1977. First Published February 1, 2013 5:00 AM