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Updated: 02/28/2012 8:53 PM
Created: 01/18/2012 6:00 PM | Print |  Email
By: Mark Albert, Mike Maybay, & Erik Altmann

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Investigates: State Worker Payouts Top $113M

nullFor some, it could be a golden parachute - and you're paying for it.

In November 2011, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported $86 million in unused vacation pay, sick time, and other severance had been paid to departing state workers and MnSCU employees in the past three years. And the total is growing by the day.

In January 2012, the University of Minnesota released its separate payroll records, showing it paid departing employees more than $27 million during the same time period.

That brings the total to at least $113 million for all departing state workers in the past three years.

Two days before our initial report aired in November, a DFL state representative was already calling for legislative hearings, based on our investigation. The day after our report, a Republican senator ordered hearings in a Senate subcommittee, citing our findings in his news release.

Bipartisan hearings at the Capitol were held Jan. 19, 2012.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, led by reporter Mark Albert, investigates as public employees are Cashing Out.

Watch our original investigation above and use our interactive salary database below.



-WatchLawmakers hold a hearing at the Capitol about millions of dollars in state worker payouts. (1/19/12)

-WatchPayouts to departing University of Minnesota employees top $27 million. (1/18/12)

-Watch: Minnesota's Legislative Auditor announces "special review" of MnSCU payouts. (11/29/11) UPDATE: Review canceled after Jan. 2012 Legislative hearing

-Watch: State Sen. Mike Parry (R-Waseca) orders hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Employee Relations after our investigation. (11/21/11)

-Watch: Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) calls for House Higher Education Committee hearing based on our investigation. (11/18/11)


"Our goal is to recruit, retain, and motivate top talent to lead our institutions, particularly during these difficult budget challenges... I believe (the compensation) is not competitive. We're only going backwards."

-Lori Lamb, MnSCU Vice Chancellor for Human Resources.

"I think there's an effort out there by people in our society to denigrate, demonize and destroy public workers... They're living modest lives like every Minnesotan. (The compensation) allows them to live with a little dignity after a whole career, instead of living in poverty."

-Eliot Seide, Executive Director, AFSCME Council 5

"I think it's fair. And I'm appreciative."

-Andy Doom, the former northern regional manager for the MN Dept. of Corrections. Doom, who earned $66,621.19 from 1,380 hours of sick time, said that was only a portion of the more than 4,000 sick leave hours he had accumulated in his 401/2 years on the state payroll. The state allows a departing employee to be paid for varying percentages of total unused sick and vacation time.

"I earned it. I worked for it. I put in a lot of hours I didn't get paid for. I do deserve it."

-David Trooien, a former district engineer for MNDOT, whose $77,253.17 severance included 1,216 unused hours of sick leave and the maximum 275 unused vacation days.

"Paying out any amount of money in the eyes of some can produce a bad image... If individuals feel concern that there's inequity or unfairness, I would hope they would voice those concerns to MNSCU."

-Dennis Nunes, former Dean of Graduate Studies at St. Cloud State University, who collected $83,351.36 in severance, $66,071.20 of which was unused sick leave.

"I didn't use it and these are things that accumulated... It's a wonderful benefit to have."

-Judy Borgen, former Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget at MnSCU, praising the benefit that allowed her to accumulate $66,411.50 in unused sick time. Borgen also received $17,630.70 for unused vacation days.



-Click here to see a list of 10,863 state workers, not including University of Minnesota employees, who got payouts totaling $86,073,697.63 from 2009-2011, ranked by the highest amounts to the lowest, including the employee who took home $319,862.07.*

-Click here to see a list of all 4,846 University of Minnesota workers who got payouts totaling $27,294,610.86.**

-Click here to see the detailed payout figures for the top MnSCU administrators, who received 18 of the 20 largest payouts in the past three years; 11 of the top 20 when combined with payout figures from the University of Minnesota.*

-See the $255,250 in bonuses paid to top MnSCU administrators in fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011, which are not included in payout figures.

-Click on the department or agency below to see how much state workers there collected in payouts* when they left their government jobs in:

2009 (MN Total: $21,074,360.18)

2010 (MN Total: $26,347,598.61)

2011 (MN YTD: $38,651,738.84)

Administration Indian Affairs Council
Administrative Hearings Investment Board
Agriculture IRRRB
Animal Health Board Labor and Industry Department
Architecture Engineering Board Legislature
Arts Board Lottery
Attorney General Military Affairs
Barber Examiners Board Minnesota Zoo
Bureau of Mediation Services Minority Councils
Campaign Finance Board MNDOT
Capitol Area Architect MN Management & Budget
Combative Sports Commission MnSCU
Commerce Department MN State Academies
Corrections Department MN State Retirement System
Cosmetologist Exam Board Office of Higher Education
Courts (Minnesota Judicial Branch) Perpich Center for the Arts
Disability Council Pollution Control Agency
Education Department Private Detective Board
Employment and Economic Development Department Public Employees Retirement Association
Enterprise Technology Office Public Safety Department
Explore Minnesota Tourism Public Utilities Commission
Gambling Control Board Revenue Department
Governor's Office Secretary of State
Health Department Sentencing Guidelines Commission
Health Industry Boards State Auditor
Higher Education Facilities Authority Teachers Retirement Association
Housing Finance Veterans Affairs Department
Human Rights Department Water and Soil Resources Board
Human Services Department Workers Compensation Court of Appeals


*Data provided by Minnesota Management and Budget for workers in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of state government, including workers with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, beginning with the payroll period beginning 12/23/08 until the payroll period ending prior to 10/17/11. Does not include employees of the University of Minnesota system, which uses a separate payroll program.

**Data provided by the University of Minnesota system for payouts beginning Jan. 1, 2009 until the end of the 2011 calendar year, which includes 2011 Retirement Incentive Option (RIO) amounts.



-Read the University of Minnesota 'backgrounder' on its payout compensation, including how it does not allow banked sick time to be converted to cash payouts, unlike the state and MnSCU.

-Learn more about the University of Minnesota's Retirement Incentive Option, which paid $4,545,500 in severance to employees who voluntarily left the payroll in 2011.

-See how many programs MnSCU closed while, at the same time, tuition increased an average 21.5% systemwide. In the past three years, as the pace of closures increased, top administrators were paid at least $255,250 in bonuses and at least $32,056,914.75 in severance pay.

-See how MnSCU administrators compare in compensation to their colleagues around the nation. (Document provided by MnSCU)

-Read the contracts for top MnSCU administrators, including for former Chancellor James McCormick, whose severance pay totaled $319,862.07.

-See five years' worth of tuition increase tables for every campus in the MnSCU system.

-Read how many state workers are taking the Early Retirement Incentive, which is in addition to severance pay, and how much money state analysts estimate the incentive will save taxpayers.

-Read the AFSCME contract, which details how much sick time and vacation time can be banked by workers in the largest union of government employees.

-Read the Legislative Auditor's report from Nov. 2011 that found the state paid some employees too much and some too little in post-retirement benefits.



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