NDP ‘wrong’ on university pay cap claims: Virk

University of the Fraser Valley has followed the rules, according to board chair

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk says the NDP is wrong in its claims that more B.C. universities, including the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), have paid senior executives more than permitted under salary caps set by the provincial government.

The NDP obtained salary cap details for three universities – Capilano University, UFV and Vancouver Island University – and said reported compensation paid to 14 executives at the schools exceeded their caps by a total of more than $1.1 million over three years.

Financial disclosures show the three universities paid their presidents between $230,000 and $245,000 in the last year – more in each case than their $225,000 caps, according to the NDP.

The NDP numbers released show UFV president Mark Evered, whose cap is listed at $225,000, received compensation of $231,039 in 2014 and was overpaid $24,750 over three years.

Eric Davis, university vice-president, has a listed salary cap of $185,745 and received compensation of $219,003 in 2014, and according to the NDP received overcompensation of $97,541 for three years.

Jackie Hogan, UFV’s chief financial officer, received $193,162 in 2014, and her overcompensation is listed at $6,831 over three years. According to the NDP’s analysis, vice-presidents Karola Stinson and Karen Evans did not receive overpayments. VP Harvey McCollough’s listed overpayment was $43,308 and VP Jody Gordon’s was $9,345.

Barry Delaney, chairman of the UFV board of governors, sent a letter to students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community, assuring them that the university has followed the rules for compensation. He added that UFV compensation is fully disclosed and the school would welcome an external review.

“The allegation of UFV executive overcompensation is simply not true, and is both disappointing and damaging to UFV.”

Delaney explained that the misunderstanding on the issue arose from the difference between total base salary alone, versus total compensation, which includes benefits, severance, vacation payouts and more. The letter included UFV’s executive compensation disclosure statement for the 2013/14 year.

The Public Sector Employers Council (PSEC), which enforces the salary cap policy, has since refused to disclose pay caps for other B.C. post-secondary institutions, prompting the Opposition to accuse Virk of covering up further violations in the wake of a recent probe of overpayments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

But in a statement emailed by his office, Virk said the caps on presidents’ total compensation do not apply to other senior post-secondary executives, who are instead subject to a salary range approved by PSEC. Those ranges don’t include additional benefits and pension, which he said the NDP mistakenly counted in its calculations, adding about 20 per cent.

Virk also said total compensation for presidents can fluctuate year to year due to higher benefit and pension costs beyond the employer’s control, and due to one-time payments such as unused vacation payouts.