McConnell to earn $300,000 salary as College of Charleston president

The College of Charleston's Board of Trustees has proposed a $300,000 annual salary for Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, the school's next president.

That's $79,000 less than current President George Benson earns.

Contract negotiations between McConnell and the college's Board of Trustees still are not complete. But the state previously approved a $188,000 salary for McConnell.

And on Friday, the college's Foundation Board approved a $112,000 salary supplement.

That marks a huge income boost for McConnell, who earns about $46,545 as lieutenant governor, a largely ceremonial, part-time position.

The salaries of many presidents of the state's public colleges and universities are comprised of a portion from the state and a contribution from the schools' foundations.

Benson earns $379,000, with $179,000 coming from the state and $200,000 coming from the foundation.

The Foundation Board on Friday morning voted to approve the amount requested by the Board of Trustees for McConnell's salary supplement, but it refused to release the specific amount.

The college released the information Friday afternoon after The Post and Courier filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

Board of Trustees Chairman Greg Padgett could not be reached for comment Friday. But, in a prepared statement, he said that the board appreciates the foundation responding to its request and "making available funds that will allow the board to continue contract negotiations with Glenn McConnell. ... I look forward to successfully concluding the contract negotiations in the near future."

Foundation Board member A.J. Heath said he supported the contribution because it's consistent with the true mission of the college, which is "to support the college and support the students."

But not all members were on board.

Keith Sauls, who participated in the meeting via teleconference, said he disagreed with the plan. "One dollar in executive compensation is one dollar coming from scholarships."

The College of Charleston Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money and promotes education and research programs. The college's Board of Trustees is the governing body of the school.

S.C. Press Association lawyer Jay Bender said that while the college's foundation is a nonprofit, it is subject to the state's Freedom of Information law if it receives any state support.

And it does. George Watt earns a $199,000 state salary for his position as the executive director of the foundation and the college's executive vice president for institutional advancement. He has an office on campus, and the Foundation Board meets in campus facilities.

Bender also said the Foundation Board violated the state's Freedom of Information law when it met behind closed doors to discuss McConnell's salary supplement.

The law allows public bodies to meet outside the public view for negotiations "incident to a proposed contract," Bender said. But that exemption doesn't apply to the Foundation Board because it is not the group negotiating the contract, Bender said.

Many students, faculty, staff and alumni were outraged when the Board of Trustees on March 22 announced it had hired McConnell. They cited his lack of academic experience. And they expressed concern about how McConnell's support of the Confederate battle flag flying on Statehouse grounds and his participation in Civil War re-enactments might impact efforts to increase the number of minority students, especially blacks, at the college.

Matt Rabon, a junior, launched a petition on the website change.org, calling for the Foundation Board to contribute only $1 per year to McConnell's salary. More than 1,000 people signed the petition.

Meanwhile, protests over McConnell being hired have stopped in recent days. But on Friday, a group of students and community members gathered at the Cistern for a prayer circle.

"We have demonstrated, marched, sat-in, and walked out in an attempt to convey our dissatisfaction with the process that elected Glenn McConnell," said Brandon Upson, a 2013 graduate of the college. "Now we are going to join hands with members of our community who were not comfortable protesting, but would rather seek a resolution through prayer."

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.

Comments { }

Postandcourier.com is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. We expect our readers to engage in lively, yet civil discourse. Postandcourier.com does not edit user submitted statements and we cannot promise that readers will not occasionally find offensive or inaccurate comments posted in the comments area. Responsibility for the statements posted lies with the person submitting the comment, not postandcourier.com. If you find a comment that is objectionable, please click "report abuse" and we will review it for possible removal. Please be reminded, however, that in accordance with our Terms of Use and federal law, we are under no obligation to remove any third party comments posted on our website. Read our full Terms and Conditions.