South Carolina State University President Thomas Elzey’s satisfactory evaluation from trustees earned him a $50,000 bonus for his work.
Elzey’s contract states that, “you are entitled to an annual contribution to a qualified annuity or other deferred compensation plan ... contingent upon a satisfactory performance evaluation as determined by the board.” It’s to be paid no later than June 30.
Trustees gave him a satisfactory evaluation for his past year’s performance by a vote of 8-1 last month. Vice President for External Affairs and Communications Sonja Bennett says that the Advancement Foundation is the source of the funds. But she said she couldn’t confirm whether the payment has been made.
Trustee Tony Grant, who cast the only dissenting vote to Elzey’s evaluation, said that when the board approved Elzey’s performance review, it also approved paying him the $50,000 bonus.
“He did get satisfactory, so it was supposed to happen,” Grant said. “But I don’t know if it’s been paid. I don’t know where it’s coming from because we don’t have no money.”
Trustees have not yet approved a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but are considering closing Felton Laboratory School and making other cuts.
Bob Waldrep, whose term as trustee ended on June 30, voted to give Elzey a satisfactory rating. He noted the bonus “was not in our budget.”
According to Waldrep, the bonus did not come up in discussions about the evaluation.
The board was divided over the issue, and some members really wanted to give him an unsatisfactory rating, Waldrep said. No one seemed to be thinking about the money.
Waldrep said he knew the bonus was in the contract, but “it wasn’t on my mind. It was on my mind to keep our president.”
Grant said he doesn’t think Elzey has earned the extra money.
“I think we’ve got more chaos under his leadership,” Grant said. “I voted unsatisfactory because I think there are too many issues involved.”
The T&D could not reach Elzey for comment because he was on vacation.
Elzey’s contract, dated May 22, 2013, gave him a base annual salary of $170,000 to be paid by the university.
It also stated that he would receive an additional $110,000 annually from the S.C. State Advancement Foundation. However, The T&D has learned that the Advancement Foundation raised the compensation it’s paying Elzey to $132,000.
Emails exchanged in November 2013 between Advancement Foundation Chairman Charlton L. Whipple and officials at the S.C. Budget and Control state that the “actual supplement being provided to President Elzey from the SC State Advancement Foundation for this fiscal year is $132,000 payable in quarterly installments.”
The T&D received copies of the emails from the Agency Head Salary Commission in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
At least $110,000 of Elzey’s compensation through the Advancement Foundation is from an anonymous donor.
The T&D tried to learn who the donor is through FOIA requests to the Agency Head Salary Commission, S.C. State University and the Advancement Foundation. All the entities replied that the donor was anonymous.
The university’s general counsel said the compensation is funded directly to the foundation “through a donor who is anonymous to the President.”
Whipple refused to provide the information to the S.C. State Board of Trustees in a letter dated March 12, 2014. He stated that the Advancement Foundation is not a public body and not subject to the FOIA requests. He also noted that FOIA allows private donors.
Elzey’s payment package also includes a $25,000 annual housing allowance and $1,593 for country club membership dues.
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