By Jessica A. Moretti
INDIANA — Personal spending by former Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Tony K. Atwater decreased during his last year in office. It marked the first decline since taxpayers began reimbursing his personal expenses in fall 2004.
Atwater’s total combined expenses, not including his salary and benefits, dropped to $110,702.94 in 2009-10 from $130,451.63 in 2008-09, a decline of 15 percent.
On Sept. 2, IUP released Atwater’s 2009-2010 expenses in response to an Aug. 2 request filed under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law. The release supplied expense vouchers for all taxpayer-financed expenditures by Atwater and his wife, Dr. Beverly L. Roberts-Atwater.
The Atwaters’ overall spending dropped, but expenses in some expense categories rose. For example, spending on Atwater’s official residence and travel decreased while expenses for his car and his house-cleaning staff increased.
Spending on Atwater’s personal residence dropped to $30,637.70 in 2009-10 from $53,382.01 in 2008-09, a decline of 42.6 percent.
Some of the residential expenses reimbursed to Atwater in 2009-10 include the following:
- $16,566.40 for installation of an aluminum, Saybrook-style, ornamental fence by Redrock Fence Co., of White Oak, Pa., around his garden
- $4,242.77 for flowers purchased at Plumline Nursery, in Murrysville
- $2,238.37 for additional garden supplies, such as soil and mulch
- $1,498.48 to Total Asphalt Management Systems, of Home, Pa., for a sealcoat on the driveway
The housekeeper at the Atwater residence received $43,114.10 for salary and benefits in 2009-10, up from $30,023.15 in 2008-09, an increase of 43.6 percent. The housekeeper also was paid $3,641.38 for services rendered in July, the month after Atwater’s official termination. According to the expense report, the housekeeper was furloughed on Aug. 6.
Atwater’s travel expenses decreased to $27,962.62 in his final year from $38,149.76 in 2008-09, a drop of 26.7 percent.
Final-year travel expenses included $2,309.54 spent on the following:
- $1,936.54 for limousine and car services, including a $907.20 round-trip from his IUP residence to the Hilton Hotel in Harrisburg for a three-night stay during the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Council of Presidents’ retreat Feb. 8-11, 2010
- $373 for valet parking on 17 occasions at the Harrisburg Hilton and three other hotel locations
For his leased vehicle, Atwater received $649.93 a month from July 2009 until December 2009 when Atwater requested a monthly reimbursement of $664.88 after entering into a new vehicle lease agreement with Luther Ford, of Homer City. In April, Atwater was seen driving a 2010 Lincoln MKZ and parking it in a reserved space outside Sutton Hall.
Atwater did not receive the requested $664.88. He received $650 a month, the maximum reimbursement allowed as outlined in the PaSSHE Executive Vehicle Lease Reimbursement Procedures, until the end of his presidency. Atwater was reimbursed $1,188.88 for car insurance.
Expense reports show that total spending for his vehicle in 2009-10 was $8,988.53, up 1 percent from $8,896.71 in 2008-09.
Salary and Benefits
Atwater received a raise in 2009-10. His compensation increased to $362,812.27 in 2009-10 from $300,574.97 in 2008-09, a 21 percent hike.
Atwater also received a pay package in July after his resignation as part of a negotiated settlement between Atwater and the PaSSHE. From July 1, 2009, to July 31, 2010, Atwater received a combined total of $663,345.92, a 121 percent increase from 2008-09.
The July settlement provided Atwater $300,533.65, including:
- $268,883.68 for salary and benefits
- $15,000 for moving expenses
- $922.57 for the cost of utilities at the university residence during July, including electric, gas, sewage and water
- $1,300 in rental fees for living at the university residence in July. [An Oct. 20 phone call to Richard P. White, IUP director of financial operations, sought clarification about where Atwater had delivered the $1,300 rent payment for which he was reimbursed. The phone call was not returned.]
- COBRA payments for health insurance of $1,203.95 per month from July 1 to June 20, 2011, totaling $14,447.40. [COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, which gives employees the right to temporarily keep group health insurance benefits that they would otherwise lose after employment termination.]
The contractual salary and severance Atwater received was paid from IUP’s operating budget and not paid directly by PaSSHE, according to the settlement terms and confirmed by Susan Drummond, IUP faculty union president, in an Oct. 22 interview in her office at 109 Stapleton Library.
The July 2010 settlement also stipulated that anyone asking IUP about Atwater “be advised that Atwater was hired as the President on Feb. 1, 2005, served successfully and voluntarily resigned his position on June 30.”
Elsewhere on campus, Atwater’s annual compensation of around $300,000 could cover a lot of academic costs in a tight-budget environment. For example, the IUP Journalism Department’s 2009-10 budget — including the federal work-study budget, operating budget and education-service-fee budget — totaled $12,755.50. With $300,000, the department could fund its operations for 23.5 years. The Criminology Department, with a $49,642 budget, would be able to fund its program for six years.
Drummond, the faculty union president, said she was not surprised that Atwater’s spending decreased during his last year as president.
“He was getting a lot of flak for his spending,” Drummond said during the Oct. 22 interview in her office.
Drummond said the overwhelming faculty vote to censure Atwater in December 2009 probably contributed to the spending restraint.
Earlier that month, PaSSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh made a pointed and public remark about spending restraint by PaSSHE campus presidents as Atwater sat in the audience.
Kenn Marshall, PaSSHE media relations manager, in an Oct. 20 email message declined comment about Atwater’s final-year personal spending and directed questions to Michelle Fryling, IUP media relations director.
Fryling declined comment in an Oct. 21 email message.
Ruth Houser, director of IUP’s accounts payable office, did not respond to an Oct. 20 email request.
Dr. Cornelius Wooten, IUP vice president for administration and finance, did not respond to a Nov. 21 email request for comment.
Jessica A. Moretti, a senior majoring in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Hermitage, Pa.
Sidebar: IUP Foundation subsidized Atwater expenses
Not all of former Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Tony Atwater expenses were taxpayer-financed. For some of his travel expenses, Atwater received reimbursement from the Foundation for IUP, a nonprofit charitable organization.
The Foundation was created in 1967 “to invest in programs that would contribute to the quality of the university,” according to the IUP website for the foundation. The foundation contributed to Atwater’s 2009-10 travel expenses.
On Jan. 11, for example, the foundation reimbursed Atwater $3,445.44 for charges incurred during a Dec. 10-13, 2009, trip to New York City for The Pennsylvania Society annual weekend retreat for Pennsylvania’s politicians and business leaders. Atwater’s wife, Dr. Beverly L. Roberts-Atwater, accompanied him.
The charges included:
- Lodging for a three-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria, totaling $2,237.79. The room rate was $647 per night.
- Three dinners, lunch, and breakfast at Peacock Alley, a restaurant at the Waldorf, totaling $217.90
- A fee of $175 for a flight schedule change to Dec. 11 from Dec. 10, 2009, for Roberts-Atwater
- U.S. Airways baggage fees of $151 for three bags
- Limo services between the airport and the Waldorf, equaling $438.89
- $27 for faxes from IUP
- A one-night pre-flight stay on Dec. 9, 2009, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Pittsburgh, plus dinner, totaling $152.72
On July 21, 2009, the foundation reimbursed Atwater $1,717.10 for food expenses incurred during the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Council of Presidents meeting in Harrisburg.
Some travel and entertainment expenses relating to university business are financed from unrestricted funds held by the foundation, according to Jacklyn C. Brown, the foundation’s director of financial operations.
“It is not unusual for a president of a university in a state system to have a discretionary spending account at the affiliated foundation,” Brown said in an Oct. 13 email message. “The President travels and attends events and dinners for the purpose of building and maintaining relationships with private donors to the university. The expenses are incurred for the purpose of raising private donations and therefore allowing the foundation to fulfill its mission of supporting the university and providing scholarships.”
Brown was unable to provide specific donation amounts that correlated directly to the two trips the foundation funded.
– By Jessica A. Moretti
Sidebar II: Atwater’s controversial tenure
Former Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tony Atwater’s June 30 resignation was not without controversy.
Atwater’s spending was the subject of an April 23 article in The HawkEye titled “Atwater’s Personal Expenses Exceed $1.6 Million Over Five Years.” The article examined Atwater’s personal spending from fall 2004 to June 30, 2009.
During this period, taxpayer-financed spending on his residence, his leased vehicle, his travel and his own compensation increased by 250 percent, 30.3 percent, 57 percent and 14 percent, respectively. The figures were detailed in an expense report provided by the university in response to a Pennsylvania Right to Know Law request.
Speculation preceded Atwater’s June 9 decision to step down as IUP president. His spending – official and personal — had been under scrutiny. And in December 2009 IUP faculty voted 568-64 to censure Atwater.
Opinion is divided on whether the censure vote was a factor in Atwater’s resignation.
“The faculty vote didn’t ride the president out of town,” Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chairman of the Board Kenneth Jarin told The Indiana Gazette in a Sept. 8 article.
However, some faculty members say otherwise. Susan Drummond, IUP faculty union president, told the Gazette in the same article, “the will of the faculty” led Atwater to leave IUP.
Atwater accepted an unpaid position with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, according to a June 9 IUP News Release.
–By Jessica A. Moretti
Sidebar III: How this story was reported
On July 27, a request was submitted to IUP’s Open Records Officer Robert Bowser for “all manners of compensation or financial provision for Dr. Tony Atwater during the period June 30, 2009, through the end of employment.”
The request was granted on Sept. 2. On Sept. 24, final copies of 584 pages of expense documents were made available by Bowser for inspection at his office during regular business hours.
Photocopies of the documents were billed at 25 cents per page, as authorized under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law. The $146 photocopying bill was paid for by a grant from the Elizabeth Ray Sweeney Fund established to enrich the education of journalism students at IUP. [LINK http://openrecords.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/open_records/4434/right-to-know_law/466460 ]
–By David Loomis
Fast Facts: For more information
For more information on this story, contact the following sources:
Dr. John C. Cavanaugh
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
Dixon University Center
2986 North Second Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Michelle S. Fryling
Office of Media Relations
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Jacklyn C. Brown, CPA
Director of Financial Operations
Foundation for IUP
Sutton Hall, Room G1D
1011 South Drive
Indiana, PA 15705
Robert L. Bowser Jr., CPSM, C.P.M.
Agency Open Records Officer
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Robert Shaw Building
650 South Thirteenth Street
Indiana, PA 15705-1087