Payday for Kuttler may be less than he wants

ST. PETERSBURG — The retirement compensation that former St. Petersburg College president Carl Kuttler wants is too much, according to an analysis by a labor employment firm hired late last year to review his claims.

Instead of the $679,765 that Kuttler said should be paid him because of his Dec. 31 retirement, a 10-page report by the Ford & Harrison law firm's Tampa office concluded he has a right to only $204,412. The most the board should pay, if it decides to award him extra salary, is $339,500, it said.

His claim for car expenses of $30,000? The report concluded the college has no contractual requirement to pay for a car.

While the report did confirm that Kuttler's claim for $65,071 in unpaid vacation time was valid, it called into question the biggest amount — $588,972 in unpaid sick leave — saying it was more than what state law allowed.

In December, after Kuttler abruptly announced he was retiring from the college he has led since 1978, the five-member board of trustees learned that the college paid him $306,065 in a series of disbursements for unpaid sick time over the previous four years. Trustees had approved those payments at a September 2006 meeting.

The Ford & Harrison report said that sum was based on 2,104 hours that accumulated before June 30, 2001. Yet state law and the college's rules allow for sick pay of up to only 720 hours. That means he can be paid only $139,341 in unpaid sick leave.

"The prior payments raise complex issues that require further analysis," the report states.

While board members aren't required to pay one year's annual salary as additional compensation, the report said members might consider paying $135,088 of what Kuttler claims as unpaid sick leave and award him an extra salary instead.

"However, to the extent the college faces the threat of litigation and/or wishes to otherwise reward Kuttler for his service following his retirement, an analysis of what permissibly constitutes 'annual salary' under his contract should be undertaken," the report states.

All five trustees, who could vote today on what Kuttler ends up getting paid, have reviewed the report, said Tracey Jaensch, a managing partner of Ford & Harrison. Jaensch said she doesn't know the total amount her firm has billed the college, but said it was about $5,000 in January.

A majority of board members on Monday said they were impressed by the report and approved its findings.

"It seems to say there's a limit to the sick pay," said Ken Burke, a trustee and clerk of the circuit court for Pinellas County. "It says we should follow state law and not the contract. This report did a good job of explaining what we're required to do."

"What the report says is equitable," said Dick Johnston. "I'm certainly hoping what is done tomorrow is the final part of this."

"We want to make sure we don't overcompensate him," said trustee Deveron Gibbons. "I had an indication in my mind that we owed a lot less."

But Gibbons said the report didn't resolve the issue of the $306,065 that was already paid Kuttler. "I don't know what the payout will be," he said. "Ask me next week."

Reached at home Monday night, Kuttler said he hadn't reviewed the report and declined further comment.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.



FAST FACTS

What Kuttler says he should be paid

Already been paid: $306,065 (sick pay)

Still owed: $373,700: (total $679,765)

Unpaid sick pay: $282,907

Unused vacation time: $65,071

What Ford & Harrison say Kuttler is owed

Unused vacation time: $65,071

Unpaid sick pay: $139,341

One-year salary: $135,088 — if trustees approve it

Payday for Kuttler may be less than he wants 02/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2010 11:36pm]

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