The Irascible Professor SM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is."....  ...George Bernard Shaw.
 

Commentary of the Day - May 3, 2006:  Has Barry Munitz No Shame?

The Irascible Professor was a bit taken aback to learn that Barry Munitz, former California State University Chancellor and former President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, has decided to return to the California State University System as a "Trustee Professor".  This sinecure entitles him to a "transitional salary" of $163,776 for his first year along with funds for a half-time secretary and a $2,500 travel budget.  This has to be quite a come down for Munitz, who was living large on a salary that exceeded $1 million per year during the eight years he headed the Getty Trust.

In addition to that seven-figure salary, the Getty paid for numerous overseas trips by Munitz and his wife Ann.  On these trips they frequently stayed at five-star hotels costing more than $1,000 per night.  It also has been reported that on occasion he would have Getty staff members send him umbrellas by overnight air express if he ran into bad weather during the trip.  The Getty also provided a $72,000 Porsche Cayenne for Munitz while he was chief executive officer of the Trust.  One might say that while he was at the Getty, Barry Munitz was a walking, talking embodiment of the word "chutzpah" taking the non-profit foundation for all he could get.

While he was President and CEO of the Getty Trust his extravagant salary and perks raised more than a few eyebrows given the fact that the $8.6 billion trust suffered more than $1 billion in stock market losses, and that questions were raised about his contentious management style and about purchases of stolen Italian antiquities by the Getty during his tenure.  Munitz finally resigned from the Getty Trust in February of this year when it became known that the California attorney general's office, an internal Getty audit committee, and the Council on Foundations all were investigating whether the large sums paid to Munitz violated standards for executives of non-profit institutions.

Those of us who suffered under Munitz's heavy-handed leadership of the California State University system were not surprised to see him run into trouble at the Getty.  However, while he served as Chancellor of the CSU system, Barry was constrained, at least to some extent, by state law and a Board of Trustees that was not completely under his thumb.

In December 2005 the Council on Foundations placed the Getty Trust on a 60-day probation because of concerns about "the sale of Getty property (at below market value to real estate magnate Eli Broad, a close friend of Munitz), the use of foundation assets for personal benefit, excessive travel and entertainment expenses, inappropriate compensation for the foundation's CEO, and potential self dealing."  (The probation was lifted following Munitz's resignation in February.)  It has been reported that Munitz received no severance package upon his resignation, and that he paid the Getty $250,000 to "resolve any continuing disputes".

Ethical considerations aside, it still would have been somewhat of a surprise to see Munitz return to the California State University system as a Trustee Professor after an absence of eight years.  The Trustee Professor program was established in November of 1984, and it is available to high-ranking executives holding tenure on one of the system campuses who were appointed before November 18, 1992 when the program was terminated.  Ostensibly, the program was intended to allow the system to "profit from an executive's accumulated experience and insights."  Most of the people who have served as Trustee Professors were campus presidents who wanted to stay involved with the system immediately following retirement.  Indeed, several of these individuals served honorably and did good work as Trustee Professors.  But, the IP knows of none who felt that they could reclaim the position after an extended absence from the system; and, it hardly seems that the Board of Trustees had this sort of "golden parachute" in mind when they established the program.

According to a CSU press release, Munitz will serve at system's Los Angeles campus where he will teach a course in the English department, and help to raise funds for the CSULA Institute for Urban Leadership, a planned Integrated Sciences Complex, a charter school and for biotechnology projects.  Presumably, he will use whatever "connections" that he has left to accomplish these goals.  However, given the ongoing investigations, it hardly seems that the "movers and shakers" in the Los Angeles community are going to be standing in line to lunch with Barry.

Predictably, both Charlie Reed (the current Chancellor of the CSU system) and CSULA President James Rosser have been "unavailable for comment" on Munitz's return to the Cal State System.  That should speak volumes about this waste of the taxpayers' money.

 

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© 2006 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.
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