EDITORIAL: Look into Malatras’ outrageous exit package

SUNY
PHOTOGRAPHER:

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras might be gone, but New York taxpayers will be paying big money for his services for years to come.

The former confidant to ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was forced to resign his $450,000 position after he came under fire for nasty comments he made toward employees, including one of the women who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Malatras also couldn’t survive questions about his role in Cuomo’s mishandling of the coronavirus response or in helping Cuomo with his $5 million book deal.

Malatras announced he was stepping down last month, but he only officially left office a few days ago. And he’s taking a lot of taxpayer money with him.

For starters, his office might be empty, but he’s officially on a one-year paid leave — at a cost of $450,000. That’s nearly half a million dollars for someone who barely worked in the job a year.

But that’s not all folks.

According to the New York Post and The Times Union, after the year is up, the former SUNY Empire State College president will be given a tenured faculty position at his old school, at an annual salary of $186,000 — making him among the highest paid faculty in the state education system.

And the hefty paycheck is not the only benefit.

As a tenured faculty member, he’s protected from the whims of annual performance reviews and other fiscal cutbacks, meaning he can keep collecting that paycheck as long as he wants to stay. If he stays just five years, that’s $930,000.

Tenure at a college is normally reserved for professors of exemplary scholarship and longevity, not as compensation for being forced out of your patronage job.

If you’re a professor at any SUNY college, how does this look to you that Malatras jumped to the front of your line?

So that’s $450,000 to Malatras for the year he held the job, plus another $450,000 year of paid leave, plus $186,000 a year after that to teach a couple of classes at an online college indefinitely.

For a government job he held for barely one year and that he was forced to leave under questionable circumstances, that’s not a bad retirement package.

Does that sound like wise use of taxpayer dollars, even for someone so high up in the government?

We’re certain that there are much better uses for more than $1 million of your tax dollars than this. Wait until spring, when you start hitting potholes and the state claims it can’t afford to fill them. Then see how reasonable the Malatras package seems to you.

This is more than your typical golden parachute. It’s highway robbery.

SUNY trustees have wide discretion over the spending of state taxpayer money, but they shouldn’t have unlimited power to hand out expensive parting gifts, especially when it’s so clearly based not on merit or years of service but on their own indebtedness to Cuomo and Malatras’ close relationship with him.

The state comptroller and the state attorney general should look into exactly how the SUNY trustees — all those Cuomo appointees and former staffers — managed to arrive at such an outrageous exit package, and look at possible legal ways to revoke the deal and recover some or all of that money for the taxpayers.

We New Yorkers pay more than our share in taxes for vital services such as education, social programs and infrastructure.

We shouldn’t also be forced to pay for friends of powerful politicians to retire in luxury.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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