April 23, 2010

Atwater's Personal Expenses Exceed $1.6 Million Over Five Years

 
NCAA.JPGIUP President Tony Atwater and IUP men's basketball Coach Joe Lombardi at NCAA Regional Championship, IUP's Memorial Field House,March 16. Photo by Brandon Oakes

 

By Megan Guza and Andrew Wojcik

 

INDIANA -Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Tony Atwater's spending policies at the institution he leads have made headlines, not all of them positive. But his personal spending is a separate and, until now, an unpublicized matter.

During his first five years at IUP, these expenses have exceeded $1.66 million, according to copies of receipts provided by the university in response to a Pennsylvania Right to Know Law request.  The receipts cover a period from fall 2004, when Atwater began to receive reimbursements for job-related spending, to June 30, 2009, the end of the last fiscal year.

 

These personal expenses - including spending by his wife, Dr. Beverly Roberts-Atwater -- are reimbursed by taxpayers. They include spending on his residence, his leased car, the salary and benefits of his household staff, his travel expenses and his own compensation. During the period, Atwater's expenses in each category have added up to the following:

  • Car lease:  $36,089.86
  • Official residence:  $110,645.35
  • Travel:  $135,197.48
  • Household cleaning personnel salary and benefits:  $147,843.45
  • His own salary and benefits:  $1,232,999.26
  • Total:  $1,662,775.40

Right to Know Law requests sent to other schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education produced some comparisons:

  • Edinboro University President Jeremy D. Brown's official residence costs for 2007-08 totaled $4,864. Dr. Brown's travel reimbursements for the same year totaled $15,524.81.
  • Slippery Rock University President Robert M. Smith's travel reimbursements for the 2009 calendar year totaled $4,667.89.  Labor charges for Dr. Smith's personal residence for that year came to $6,535.55
  • At Millersville University, President Francine G. McNairy's travel costs for the 2009 calendar year were $10,287. She reported no official-residence costs that year. Her 2008 official-residence costs totaled $2,325.
  • Shippensburg University President William N. Ruud's official residence expenses for the 2008-09 school year totaled $4,939. He had no reimbursements that year.
  • None of the four presidents has a personal household staff.

Personal Residence

 

Atwater's reimbursable expenses for his personal residence - items he has billed to the university - have increased each year since IUP began reimbursing them in fall 2004. His spending in his first full year as president, 2005-06, was $15,164.59, His annual spending in 2008-09 - the most recent year for which information is available - totaled $53,382.01, an increase of more than 250 percent.

 

Residence.jpgPresident Tony Atwater's residence, 572 University Dr., Indiana, Pa., photographed March 10. Photo by David Loomis
Atwater's two-story red-brick residence is in a wooded area at 572 University Drive. The house attaches to a two-car garage and sits at the end of a paved driveway lined with streetlights. White French-style doors open on to second-story white widow's peak that sits above the house's main entryway.

 

Items purchased by the president and his wife for his official university residence include:

  • Two closet organizer components purchased for the master bedroom from California Closets on June 5, 2005, totaling $3,550.
  • Bathroom items purchased Oct. 17, 2005, from Rustic Acres Furniture, 2698 West Pike Road, Indiana, totaling $2,221.93.
  • An irrigation system for his garden, purchased in July 2009, for $4,867.
  • Master bedroom/bathroom window treatments purchased from Affordable Interiors, 1515 Philadelphia St., Indiana, Pa., on Nov. 8, 2006, for $5,560.

Travel

 

In 2005-06, Atwater's travel expenses came to $24,277.44. In 2008-09, travel expenses - airfare, hotel stays, dining and car fare - totaled $38,149.76, an increase of 57 percent. Itemized receipts show:

  • Atwater's trips to Harrisburg are consistently spent in the Hilton. Since his October 2004 start at IUP, he has stayed there 52 times, totaling $13,372.54.
  • One trip, logged April 14, 2009, for an unspecified number of days, included expenses of $599.35 for food, $1,991.81 for lodging, $2,536.30 for air travel, and $1,632.20 for road travel. Total:  $6,759.66
  • Atwater has used Corporate Sedan Service in Philadelphia. One trip, listed on Sept. 28, 2007, cost $96.25.
  • One dinner for two at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco  on Feb. 8, 2008, cost a total of $136.71. The dinner included two prime filets, costing $46 each.

Car Lease

 

The university is required to provide the president with a leased automobile under terms of his employment contract. Atwater's has increased to $8,896.71 in 2008-09 from $6,828.36 in 2005-06, a 30.3 percent increase. He is reimbursed up to $650 a month for his car lease.  A March 18 e-mail sent to Greg Cusimano, a member of the university police, asked for a description of Atwater's current vehicle. The e-mail received no response.
 

Lincoln.jpgA 2010 Lincoln MKZ driven by IUP President Tony Atwater was photographed April 15 in a 24/7 reserved parking space outside Sutton Hall on the IUP campus. Photo by Megan Guza
Expense reports show that Atwater leased a Chrysler 300 during 2008-2009. On April 15, Atwater was seen emerging from the driver's seat of a beige 2010 Lincoln MKZ parked outside Sutton Hall.

 

Personal Staff

 

One employee is assigned to the president's residence, according to a Right to Know request sent to the IUP Office of Open Records. The position is classified as a Household Technician.

 

The university pays the salary and benefits of Atwater's household worker. This total, $43,989.27 in 2005-06, increased each year until 2007-08, when it dropped to $38,823.15 from the 2006-07 total of $45,650.28, a decrease of 15 percent. The Right to Know Law response attributed this to a change in personnel. In 2008-09, the total jumped back up to $30,023.15.

 

In 2008-2009, some elements of the staff member's benefits included the following:

  • Salary:  $22,275.15
  • Medical Hospitalization:  $9,525. This is the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's portion of an employee's health plan premiums while an employee is actively working, according to a March 1 email exchange with Mistie A. Blazavich, who works in the IUP Budget Office in Clark Hall.
  • Medical Hospitalization Annuitant:  $6,465.68. This is "PASSHE's portion of a retired employee's health plan premiums," Blazavich wrote. "These amounts are used to fund retired employees' health plan coverages."

Salary and Compensation

 

Atwater is the highest paid among Pennsylvania's 14 state university presidents, according to a January 2010 report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. His compensation has increased each year, totaling $300,574.97 in 2008-09, up from $263,513.23 in 2005-06, an increase of 14 percent, more than twice the 6.4 percent rate of inflation through 2006-2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Atwater's personal expenses - travel, official residence spending, personnel and car lease - are not included in his compensation.

 

Some of the elements in Atwater's 2008-09 compensation included:

  • Salary:  $255,320.55
  • Medical Hospitalization:  $8,103.47
  • Medical Hospitalization Annuitant:  $4,504.77

Atwater's salary and expenses have been controversial. They were included in a bill of particulars brought against him in December 2009 in conjunction with a vote of no confidence by the IUP chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the campus faculty union. Eighty-four percent of IUP faculty members who voted indicated no confidence in the president.

 

Reaction

 

Atwater's spending has not gone unnoticed by IUP faculty.

  

"Nobody is begrudging him having a nice home," IUP union president Dr. Robert J. Mutchnick, an IUP criminology professor, said in a Feb. 12 interview in his Wilson Hall office. "But in a time of such financial straits that the university is in, there are purchases and investments made toward his home using university funds that just seem inappropriate."

 

Mutchnick noted controversies surrounding Atwater's official spending on campus construction projects and other administrative issues.

 

"He'll continue to do these things that he does in spite of the things around him," he said. "Tony Atwater is fiddling while IUP burns."

 

A Feb. 19 phone call placed to Kenn Marshall, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education  spokesman in Harrisburg, was not returned.

 

Attempts to contact Atwater at his office in person, by phone and by e-mail on Feb. 19 were unsuccessful. One e-mail sent to Atwater requesting a meeting was returned stating, "'Due to my previously scheduled calendar commitments, I must decline particpating [sic] at this time."

 

Ruth Houser, who works in the Accounts Payable office in Clark Hall and has a hand in reimbursing Atwater, declined comment after being contacted via e-mail on Feb. 24.

 

Michelle S. Fryling, IUP media relations director, requested pre-publication review of this story's details when contacted by e-mail Feb. 23 and 24. She declined to answer questions about Atwater's spending.

 

IUP Budget office staff member Blazavich, when asked in a March 4 e-mail, who reimburses Atwater's expenses, directed the request to the university's Right to Know Office.

 

Megan Guza, a sophomore majoring in journalism and criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Bentleyville, Pa.

Andrew Wojcik, a junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Altoona, Pa.

  

 

A president's pay and perks

 

By Megan Guza and Andrew Wojcik

 

IUP President Tony Atwater's pay and benefits are spelled out in a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Presidential Employment Agreement. According to Atwater's 2008-09 contract, he is entitled to the following benefits beyond those available to PaSSHE managers:

 

The president shall also receive the following benefits, and such other benefits as the Board may grant:

  • Provision of an executive Class 1 automobile, with gasoline credit card, for official travel, or reimbursement for a leased vehicle in accordance with Board Policy.
  • Reimbursement for official travel on a cost basis as set forth in Board Policy or Administrative Guidance for Policy.
  • Coverage under Commonwealth programs for claims arising out of employment-related activity.
  • Maintenance and support service for the official residence.

 

How this story was reported

 

On Sept. 15, a request was submitted to IUP's Open Records Officer Robert Bowser  for "all manners of compensation or financial provision for Dr. Atwater during his entire time employed at IUP."

 

On Oct. 21, Bowser released an initial batch of documents for inspection at his office during regular business hours. Subsequent information requests pushed the total release to 2,686 pages.

 

Photocopies of the documents cost 25 cents per page, as authorized under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law. The $671.50 photocopying bill was paid for by a grant from the Elizabeth Ray Sweeney Fund established to enrich the education of journalism students at IUP.

Requests for comparative presidential-expense documents at other SSHE institutions reported in this story were provided promptly at no cost.

   --By David Loomis

 

Fast Facts:  For more information

 

For more information on this story, contact the following sources:

 

Dr. Tony Atwater

President

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

201 Sutton Hall
Indiana, PA 15705

Phone: 724-357-2200

E-mail: Tony.Atwater@iup.edu

 

Michelle S. Fryling

Director

Office of Media Relations

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 724-357-2302

E-mail: michelle.fryling@iup.edu

 

Dr. John C. Cavanaugh

Chancellor

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

Dixon University Center
2986 North Second Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Phone: 717-720-4011

E-mail: jcavanaugh@passhe.edu

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

Megan, Andrew:
Congratulations on a first-class piece of investigative journalism. Over the years there have been rumors and implications about executive expenses. Your story effectively presents the information you have laboriously gathered in context of other PASSHE schools. You provide the valuable public service that we hope but don't always receive from journalism today. Keep up the good work.

Ms. Guza and Mr. Wojcik are to be congratulated on an outstanding job both in the research and writing of this article. This is an excellent outlining of the depth of indifference and hubris of Mr. Atwater.

I find it interesting that IUP students had to pay to copy papers about Dr. Atwaters expenses, yet other colleges were prompt to just give the info over at no cost. What is Dr. Atwater trying to hide????? That he is robbing the tax payers blind??? I think so after reading this wonderful report.

This is one of the reasons why I won't be donating money to my alma mater anytime soon.

This is excellent journalism. Thank you.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ms. Lee C. Vest published on April 23, 2010 8:00 AM.

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