Marty Meehan, the University of Massachusetts system president, is at the center of controversy after Fox 25 Investigates released a recent investigative report which showed six-figure salaries at the president’s downtown office.

The report alleges that even after Meehan had encouraged budgetary “belt tightening” of his employees, more of them still earn six-figure salaries on the backs of taxpayers and students. After Meehan became the UMass system’s twenty-seventh president in July of 2015, the five campuses—Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and the medical campus in Worcester—saw an increase in tuition and fees for the third year in a row.

After reviewing the state’s payroll data, the Fox 25 investigation found that the number of workers in Meehan’s central office decreased slightly in the previous year, but the salaries of employees there increased.

The investigation also found that the UMass central office had 17 retirees on payroll who were collecting state pensions, which is legal.

Former Inspector General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Gregory Sullivan, as interviewed by Fox 25 Investigates, said the following: “For state employees, UMass is nirvana—heaven. You want to go there.” He also added, “These administrators literally made millions in pay raises. Then it leveled. Now it’s going back up again.”

Robert Connolly is one of the retirees working at the UMass central office. Even though he works for about nine hours a week in total, he makes $48,000 a year for his work. Sullivan criticized the practice of hiring state pensioners by saying, “If they were thinking about the taxpayers’ interest, they would have never allowed this to happen.”

Connolly insisted that the work he does is valuable: “The university valued the work I had done.” Connolly’s work includes writing press releases, ghost writing newspaper opinion pieces, and producing commercials including one where President Meehan promotes UMass as “one of the most innovative universities in the world.”

Jeff Cournoyer, the vice president of communications for the UMass system, defended the pay increases in an email to Fox 25 Investigates: “I disagree with the underlying assertion that central office salaries are increasing at a rate that the taxpayers need to be informed about.”

President Meehan also had something to say about this. When asked about “belt-tightening” at the central office, Meehan confirmed the cuts: “As a matter of fact, we’ve cut the number of employees by three... [A salary increase of] 2.5 percent is lower than what the state average is.”

While Meehan is adamant on the different steps his office is talking to cut back costs, a UMass Dartmouth student and mother, is voicing her disdain surrounding the issue: “Why are their salaries going up? They should be going down to help us students. I don’t imagine that they’re struggling like us as students—struggling to work multiple jobs, to keep your grades up, just to afford to live, and just to get by.”

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