Legislators Who Work For The University System Allowed To Double Dip And Take Liberties With Vacation Time

Previously, SAB reported Senator Tony Grindberg (R-Fargo) had collected more than his employment agreement authorized as the head of the NDSU Technology and Research Park while serving in the state leigslature. Now I can shed some light on other legislators who are allowed to double-dip on their higher ed pay while serving in the legislature.

And allowed to take excessive amounts of vacation time.

First, Senator Larry Robinson (D – Valley City) continues to receive his $98,000 salary while also collecting his legislative pay. Robinson is an Executive Director for Advancement at Valley City State University (VCSU). He neither takes unpaid leave nor uses vacation time while serving in the legislature.

Second, Senator Tim Flakoll holds two positions in higher education classified as .5 “full time employee” status. He is allowed to double-dip on his salaries from these positions and take excessive amounts of vacation pay to cover his time spent in the legislature.

On February 13, 2006, Flakoll was hired as the Tri-College University Provost, a .5 “full time employee” position. The job announcement called for “significant academic experience in higher ed” and “a Ph.D.” While Flakoll was an adjunct lecturer, his full time employment was with the Red Hawks and in marketing. Flakoll does not have a Ph.D. Most of the funding for this position comes from Minnesota and North Dakota taxpayers through NDSU and Moorhead State.

Flakoll was also hired by former NDSU President Joe Chapman as a .25 FTE Director of Downtown Operations on September 1, 2007. There was no advertising for the position, no job description, and no application from Flakoll. The salary for this .25 FTE position was at time of hire $24,771 plus benefits.

Yes, this .25 position includes benefits.

After the 2009 legislative session Chapman increased this position to .5 FTE. Interestingly, Flakoll goes on partial leave for his NDSU position during the session. Amazing, an employee can take a second job that requires his presence in Bismarck for four months and NDSU doubles the pay and hours. This doesn’t pass the smell test.

So, in summary, Robinson collects 100% of his salary and Flakoll collects over 60% of his salary while both also receive 100% of their legislative salary.

But there’s more that smells about Senator Flakoll’s arrangement.

According to NDSU policy, Flakoll should earn 15 days of vacation each year. In 2010 Flakoll took 18.5 days of vacation (again, for a .5 FTE position). In 2010 Flakoll received compensation for 28 legislative days for interim service between legislative sessions. Records indicate he took 5 hours of vacation during these 28 days, so his vacation days weren’t used to cover his interim service.

Both Flakoll and Robinson received their full university pay during 2010 despite significant time spent going about interim legislative duties.

The 2011 legislative session lasted from January 4 to April 28. In 2011, Flakoll took over 42 days of vacation. He recorded 32 days of vacation during the session. This maneuver allows Flakoll to collect 100% of his NDSU salary for much of the session. After the regular session, Flakoll was paid for another 14 days of legislative work. He used 2 hours of vacation during these 14 days.

He had the audacity to take at least another 10 days vacation, presumably for personal reasons, bringing the total for the year to over 8 weeks for what is supposed to be a half-time job.

It appears that at NDSU, the unwritten policy is that state senators get unlimited vacation.

As noted, Robinson does not take vacation for legislative days and collects his regular university pay. When you consider the higher-ed-friendly voting records of these legislators – Flakoll, Robinson and Grindberg – it reveals a troubling picture.

There are many hardworking, ethical members serving in the state legislature, and double-dipping on the taxpayer dime seems to be a practice unique to university system employees as other public workers don’t do it. Legislators and firefighters Scot Kelsh (D – Fargo) and Ron Guggisberg (D – Fargo) take a 100% unpaid leave from their taxpayer-funded jobs while serving. Before they retired from teaching, Grand Forks legislators Ray Holmberg (R – school counselor) and Lois Delmore (D – school teacher) were always on 100% leave from their taxpayer-funded jobs.

State Senator Nicole Poolman (R-Bismarck), who is serving in her first legislative session, is on 100% leave from her teaching position.

It seems legislators employed in higher education are allowed to double-dip on their salaries, and take liberties with benefits such as vacation days, while other public employees are not.

New Chancellor Hamid Shirvani and SBHE President Duaine Espegard have asked for substantial additions in funding higher-ed, partially to better audit spending. Where they need to start is finding university presidents with backbone. We know how NDSU handles football players who break the law.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Brescianni to do anything on double-dipping legislators.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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