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Before he goes, St. Petersburg College president asks for $684K

ST. PETERSBURG — Carl Kuttler is planning to retire Dec. 31 after more than three decades at the helm of St. Petersburg College.

But he'd like $684,000 before he goes.

Kuttler, the school's president since 1978 and a college employee for 43 years, believes he's owed that much for, among other things, unused sick and vacation time and a sabbatical he never took, an attorney for the college's board of trustees said Tuesday.

Kuttler says he is owed for 1,402 unused sick hours and 336 unused vacation hours per rules for state employees. At his current hourly rate, $193.57, that works out to $336,469.

In addition, he wants $30,000 to buy a car his contract promised and $131,755 for unused flex time — an extra 18 days off a year Kuttler receives as part of his contract. And he wants $185,788 for a six-month sabbatical he was allowed but never took.

All of that is on top of the $195,000 to $210,000 a year school officials say he is expected to earn through the Florida Retirement System.

Kuttler, 69, sat in the audience Tuesday but did not speak as the board discussed his request. In an interview later with the St. Petersburg Times, Kuttler said that he has saved the college more than $1 million in compensation costs, after accounting for the money he says he's owed.

Kuttler pointed out, for instance, that he forfeited a $527,000 retirement bonus in 2003. But Kuttler recouped much, if not all of that money by continuing to work at the college and through increases to his state retirement pension.

He also said he worked a combined 1,547 days without pay from 1994 to 2009. As a salaried employee, however, Kuttler does not receive overtime.

"There are no gifts, nor were there any asked for," Kuttler said.

The college's five trustees voted 3-2 to delay a decision until Dec. 15.

Trustees Ken Burke and Deveron Gibbons said they did not know enough about the request or the payout amount to make a decision. Board chairman Terry Brett also voted to delay the vote.

Among the questions yet to be answered are why Kuttler should be paid his 2009 hourly rate for sick days he didn't use 30 years ago or more and why he should be compensated for a sabbatical he never took.

While current employees can be paid only 480 hours for sick time, a college attorney said, the rule was not put into place until 2001 and does not apply to Kuttler.

Kuttler said he rarely used sick days, and when he did, he made up the work on his own time. The $684,000 Kuttler believes he is owed already was set aside and won't affect the school's budget, Kuttler said.

"We have a fiduciary responsibility to know what the heck we're voting on," said Gibbons, who along with Burke appeared uncomfortable with Kuttler's request. "I am not going to rubber stamp something because someone has served at the college so long."

Added Burke: "I don't feel a sense of confidence to vote on something as important as this."

The attorney for the board of trustees, Joe Lang, recommended trustees pay Kuttler $500,000. But Lang also said Kuttler was not prepared to accept any compensation package less than $560,000.

Trustee Richard Johnston said the school should just pay Kuttler $560,000 and "not get into the hassle" of a contract dispute or possible lawsuit.

"We know we want to give him some kind of a package that's worthy of what he's done for us," said Johnston, who along with trustee Evelyn Bilirakis wanted to vote on a compensation package Tuesday.

Under the terms of his current contract, Kuttler can remain at the school as a tenured professor at full salary until June 2011, Lang said. His salary then could be renegotiated.

Kuttler announced his intention to retire in July. He said he intended to remain president while trustees searched for successor, at least temporarily.

Last month, he said he would retire Dec. 31.

On Tuesday, trustees unanimously chose former college administrator Tom Furlong as interim president starting Jan. 1. The college hopes to have a permanent replacement selected by spring 2010.

St. Petersburg College's board of trustees plan to meet next month to discuss the college's textbook contract, trustees said Tuesday, after a St. Petersburg Times investigation showed evidence that students were being overcharged for books.

A former manager at St. Petersburg College's Clearwater bookstore provided documents to the Times that suggest book contractor Follett Higher Education Group overcharged students more than $800,000 over seven years.

While trustees did not necessarily believe former manager Bob Stubblefield, they seemed interested in exploring policy changes to make books more affordable for students. "This textbook issue is much bigger than that story," trustee Ken Burke said. "It's a national concern."

Other action

St. Petersburg College's board of trustees plans to meet next month to discuss the college's textbook contract, trustees said Tuesday, after a St. Petersburg Times investigation showed evidence that students were being overcharged for books.

A former manager at St. Petersburg College's Clearwater bookstore provided documents to the Times that suggest book contractor Follett Higher Education Group overcharged students more than $800,000 over seven years.

While trustees did not necessarily believe former manager Bob Stubblefield, they seemed interested in exploring policy changes to make books more affordable for students. "This textbook issue is much bigger than that story," trustee Ken Burke said. "It's a national concern."

Before he goes, St. Petersburg College president asks for $684K 12/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 12:09am]
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