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Columnist
'No' vote speaks out against ECC president's deal
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/23/2010 12:00 AM

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During last April's general election, Elgin Community College Trustee Robert Getz billed himself as the lone "no" vote on the board.

Last week's 5-1 vote on a "retention incentive" amendment to College President David Sam's contract was no exception. As a reward for staying at the college, Sam will be paid a retention incentive equal to 5 percent of his base salary each year, starting May 1.

With a salary of $194,779, this year's incentive works out to be $9,738.95. Sam will also receive retroactive retention incentives for the previous two years he has served at the college, based on his base salary in each of those years. Together, those incentives total $27,720.20.

Trustees approved the amendment with a 5-1 vote. Getz voted against the move. Phyllis Folarin was absent.

While the ECC board chair typically speaks on behalf of the college board, Getz called me Thursday to chat about this particular "no".

Because trustees were not allowed to talk about the amendment until after its vote, Getz said he "couldn't talk about the reason I was voting against it in clear and concise terms."

Now that the contract's out in the open, Getz drew parallels between Sam's deal and former Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Connie Neale's golden parachute.

In October 2007, months after negotiating a $60,000 raise and bonus, Neale left the district on indefinite sick leave, moving to a home in Joplin, Mo. She cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars in her final year.

Getz said Sam had given no indication he planned to do the same, but believes "what we've done is given him too much,"

Board Chairwoman Eleanor MacKinney, of Hampshire, disagreed on behalf of the board.

She pointed out that the other four members voting for the amendment had nothing but positive things to say.

"We had not done this before. But we've never had this kind of president," she said last Wednesday.

The board credits Sam with keeping the college's tuition rate steady at $91 per credit hour for the past several years, for pushing to get a $178 million referendum approved by voters last April, and for increasing enrollment to 12,400 students.

"Not retaining a president is expensive," MacKinney said. It's time consuming. It will create a gap in our leadership. We want to ensure his leadership. ... Dr. Sam receives lots of recruitment offers. He is a sought-after commodity and he has made a commitment to this college to move it from good to great."