SUNY Chancellor announces plans for accountability, transparency for compensation

Former president of SUNY Upstate Dr. David Smith

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced a plan Friday to bring greater accountability and transparency for compensation of SUNY Leaders. It comes a week after SUNY Upstate Medical University President Dr. David Smith resigned amid an investigation into his compensation.

According to a news release issued to CNYCentral, Chancellor Zimpher plans to "propose amendments to SUNY's current Salary and Compensation Plan that reflect higher standards of compliance, accountability, and transparency by channeling all leadership compensation through state-controlled funding sources, among other measures."

The new procedures will require presidents explain all external compensation, establish a lack of any conflict of interest for such activities, and obtain approval from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for such compensation. "SUNY's compensation policies and practices must be re-examined and strengthened in order to reflect the highest levels of accountability and transparency," said Chancellor Zimpher. "By moving all compensation for campus presidents and other SUNY leaders through state funding channels, we can tighten our controls to ensure that our policies are strong, open, and competitive."

The SUNY Board of Trustees today recommended this be looked at during the Board's meeting in January. "The taxpayers of the state of New York deserve nothing less than a regular and comprehensive review of the university's salary plan for its highest officers," said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. "As our policies and procedures for compensation are cast into the spotlight as a result of recent events, it is critical that the chancellor's review be conducted thoroughly and promptly."

According to Zimpher, preliminary information indicates that Smith accepted a substantial increase in his compensation from the Pediatrics Service Group, LLP, which was not approved, and involved himself in a deferred compensation plan through MedBest Medical Management, Inc., an entity affiliated with the Upstate University Health System. Zimpher says Smith received nearly $350,000. The two companies have been the beneficiaries of major multi-million dollar contracts with SUNY Upstate.

Earlier this week, another SUNY Upstate administrator stepped down in the wake of the investigation into Dr. Smith. 66-year-old Steven Brady, senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, retired on Wednesday. Brady is affiliated with the outside medical company, MedBest, that Dr. Smith is accused of taking compensation from.

Dr. Gregory Eastwood will serve as interim President. He previously served as president of Upstate from 1993-2006.