Nova Scotia

Former St. FX president's contract called 'egregious' for $1.2M leave payout

Former St. Francis Xavier University president Sean Riley's final contract allowed him to collect more than $1.2 million for administrative leave he was not able to take in years leading up to 2011.

Sean Riley, who retired in 2014, signed his last employment contract with the university in 2011

Former St. Francis Xavier University president Sean Riley's 2011 employment contract allowed him to collect $1.2 million for administrative leave he did not take. (Stfx.ca)

Former St. Francis Xavier University president Sean Riley's final contract allowed him to collect more than $1.2 million for administrative leave he was not able to take in years leading up to 2011.

The university paid him $527,563.63 when he signed the agreement and set aside another $733,074.40 in trust as a retirement allowance.

The details are in Riley's final contract signed in January 2011, obtained through a request made under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Riley retired last year after 18 years at the helm of the Antigonish university.

The head of the university's faculty association says the deal shows a corporate mentality that has been found on many Canadian campuses in recent years.

Brad Long, a professor in the school of business and president of the St. Francis Xavier University Association of University Teachers, calls the contract "egregious."

"Administrative leave becomes a right and it becomes a cash payment, a cashable benefit," he said. "We've heard in the past various justifications for administrative leave by trying to compare it to sabbaticals that faculty earn.

"But this contract highlights the fallacy in making those comparison, [because] faculty have to apply for sabbatical leaves based on a planned program and they can be denied."

New president posts contract

The contract also called for bonuses of between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of Riley's salary, if he met targets set by an executive committee.

Long also says this also pokes holes in arguments made by Frank McKenna — the chair of the university's board of governors at the time Riley's deal was signed — that greedy faculty were driving up the costs of higher education.

Meanwhile, the person who succeeded Riley as St. FX president, Kent MacDonald, has posted his contract online. Long calls the transparency a positive step.

MacDonald's bonuses will be smaller, capped at 15 per cent of his $288,000 salary. However, he also a formula for administrative leave that will pay him one year for every five as president.

Earlier this year, details of former Dalhousie University president Tom Traves's contract showed he received one year's full salary for each five years he served as president. He is the highest paid person at Dal, making more than $450,000 a year, even though he's been retired since 2013.

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