Amit Chakma, Western University president, earned $924K last year

A look at why Western University presient Amit Chakma was paid $924,000, more than double his regular annual salary in 2014, according to figures disclosed on the Sunshine List.

Sunshine list shows administrator chose to work through paid 'administrative leave', doubling salary

Western University president and vice-chancellor Amit Chakma collected $924,000 in compensation in 2014, according to figures reported in Ontario's Sunshine List released Friday. (Western University)

How is it that Western University president and vice-chancellor Amit Chakma collected almost double his $479,600 annual salary last year?

Salary earnings of $924,000, plus $43,244 in taxable benefits, is what's recorded next to Chakma's name in the salary disclosure included in this year's Ontario Sunshine list.

Reported annually, the list includes all public-sector workers whose salaries exceeded $100,000 in the previous year. Last year, more than 111,000 people in the public sector took home paycheques of $100,000 or more.

The 2014 Sunshine List records Chakma's 2013 salary at $479,600. So how did it jump to a whopping $924,000 in 2014?

The university based in London, Ont., issued a news release Friday explaining the salary jump this way: 

"To ensure continuity of leadership at a critical time, Chakma received payment in lieu of a one-year administrative leave that was included in his first five-year contract, which concluded in June 2014. The board has reappointed Chakma to a second five-year term extending to June 30, 2019."

Chose to work through leave

Western's board of governors chair Chirag Shah told CBC News that instead of taking one year of paid administrative leave included in his contract, Chakma opted to stay and work through 2014 at what Shah said was a "critical time" for the university. 

Doesn't that mean Chakma was essentially paid twice his salary for one year of work?

Shah told CBC News it doesn't. He says Chakma was permitted to take a year of salary for not working and instead chose to stay and work, meaning he was essentially entitled to twice his annual salary in one calendar year.

Chakma joined the university in 2009 and was reappointed to a second five-year contract in June of last year.

"Our hands were tied by the contract he signed in 2009," said Shah.

Shah said situations like Chakma's are not unusual in academia. He also said Chakma met or exceeded key benchmarks for his job, such as undergraduate enrolment, fundraising and student grades.

In the release, Shah said Chakma "is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most influential academic leaders in Canada, which is reflected in his salary.

"The continued momentum of Western's drive to become a world-class research university and to raise Canada's profile as a leader in international education has benefited greatly from his guidance since his arrival in 2009, and especially over the last year."

One of Canada's largest universities, Western has about 6,300 full-time staff and 32,000 undergraduate students. 

"We are satisfied that the salaries of Western faculty and staff reflect fair compensation for each individual's scope of responsibility," said Shah.