Ohio University trustees illegally give president, wife 1% pay hike

Posted on:

< < Back to



Ohio University trustees have illegally approved giving President Roderick J. McDavis and his wife, Deborah, each a 1 percent pay boost — on top of salary increases already approved this past summer — without taking an official public vote.

After meeting in executive session on Friday morning, OU trustees announced that they were making the McDavises eligible for a 1 percent salary bump that will go to faculty and staff members because the school met its enrollment goals.

“Pay increases for the president are always announced publicly,” Ohio University spokeswoman Katie Quaranta wrote in an email. “The 1 percent was approved by consensus in the executive session for personnel matters that occurred in the morning on Nov. 1.”

But the state’s Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to take official action and conduct all deliberations on official business only in “open meetings where the public may attend and observe."

“No vote or other decision-making on the matter(s) discussed may take place during the executive session. … Any action taken by a public body while that body is in violation of the Open Meetings Act is invalid,” according to the Ohio attorney general’s 2013 Sunshine Laws Manual.

While it is the board’s practice to vote on resolutions when acting on new employment contracts for the president, the board traditionally announces pay raises without accompanying formal resolutions, Quaranta wrote. “The Open Meetings Law allows executive sessions for personnel matters such as this.”

But the law doesn’t allow trustees to vote in executive session, said Tim Smith, an expert on Ohio’s sunshine laws and an emeritus professor at Kent State University.

“All votes must be public,” Smith said in an email. “If the decision is challenged, a court would rescind it. Problem with the law is that someone would need to make a fuss.”

The raises were based on the couple’s 2012-13 salaries, Quaranta said.

The board agreed in executive session to give McDavis an additional $4,150, which, coupled with the 2.89 percent pay increase the trustees approved in August, would bring his base salary to $431,150. His total income would go up to $493,400 if the $62,250 bonus he received this summer is included.

Trustees also voted to give Mrs. McDavis an extra $300, for a new total of $31,200. Similar to her husband, she received a 3 percent base-salary increase in August.

The university expects to implement the salary increases at the end of fall semester, Quaranta said. The raises would be retroactive to July 1, 2013.