Bonus raises concerns

Dr. David Locher

Dr. David Locher

Allison Rosewicz

A three-year-old clerical error has resurfaced to cause dissension throughout the campus.

Prior to being promoted from assistant to associate professor before the 2001-2002 school year, Dr. David Locher, associate professor of sociology, received a generous contract in the mail.

“I knew I would be receiving a substantial raise that year,” Locher said. “I had no idea how much. About 10 different people told me how much I could expect, and they literally gave me 10 different numbers. None of them were right.”

The contract he received was $17,000 more than his previous salary as an assistant professor of $35, 494. Locher said he was surprised by the numbers, but thought the College was simply rewarding him for his promotion.

“I have friends who work at other colleges in other states, and I knew that what I was being offered was not out of line with what I could expect,” he said. “It seemed generous to me, but it wasn’t like an extra $100,000 or anything like that.”

Locher signed the contract and turned it in to the president’s office on a Monday.

“Friday of that same week, I received a very remorseful phone call from the administration saying that a clerical error had been made on my contract, that they had literally simply printed out the wrong salary,” he said.

Dr. Terri Agee, vice president for business affairs, was the member of the administration who contacted Locher after human resources discovered the mistake.

“I called David the minute I was notified that there was an error and explained to him that there was an error made,” she said. “I apologized to him on behalf of the College.”

Three days later, Locher met with Agee. She informed him that his contract was $10,000 more than it was supposed to be. With his promotion to associate professor, Locher should have received a $7,000 raise.

Locher agreed to give up the original contract, although he did not sign one for the amount he should have received. He and Agee made a compromise where Locher would be paid the approximate $7,000 raise plus a $5,000 bonus for the error made.

“It was an error on behalf of the College,” Agee said. “We needed to honor that. So we paid him a compromise. That’s how we arrived at the $5,000.”

This brought Locher’s 2001-2002 salary to $47,694 — an increase of $12,200 from his previous year’s payment.

“I would like to have kept the whole amount,” Locher said. “That would have been great. But I was more than happy to make that adjustment. I thought they handled it very well. I thought it was a very good compromise.”

Monday, Jan. 27, an anonymous person posted fliers throughout Webster Hall accusing Locher of refusing to pay back the extra money he originally received. He also received an anonymous voice mail message from someone calling him a “piece of crap.”

After these events, Locher said he hopes people now realize he was not trying to deceive anyone.

“This wasn’t something that I somehow snuck past the administration,” he said. “This is what the administration gave me after correcting the mistake. We all agreed this was a good solution.”

Dr. Richard Miller, head of social science department, said the department became aware of the mistake in Locher’s salary toward the end of last semester.

“I became aware of it about a year ago, but I wasn’t aware it was an error at the time,” he said.

Miller said he noticed Locher’s salary was significantly higher than it had been in previous years while looking over summer budgets.

“Since I don’t deal with salaries, I had no reason to question it,” he said.

Miller said the mistake became public within the department when Dr. Ree Wells, associate professor of sociology, requested a list of salaries for the faculty welfare committee and raised questions about Locher’s pay. Wells declined to comment for this story.

Dr. Conrad Gubera, professor of sociology, questioned how the mistake happened in the first place. He has instructed at Missouri Southern for 36 years and has never known a mistake to be made like this on a contract. Agee also said an error of this magnitude has never been made.

“I’ve always been under the assumption that these figures are double-checked,” Gubera said. “After 36 years of assuming something like that, that shakes me a little bit to see something of a mistake like this being made and obviously not being caught.”

He said he is not so much bothered by Locher receiving the extra pay as he is by how the situation was handled.

“The integrity and morality are the sort of things that seem to be undermining this whole thing,” Gubera said. “Sometimes it’s not so much the figures as what has happened and how it’s happened. So many other faculty members have come through the rank and file and have done it the hard way.”

Agee said an error like this should never occur again.

“We put safeguards in place now,” she said. “All the contract amounts are run through human resources prior to signing contracts. The likelihood of this ever happening again is very, very small. It goes through the eyes of at least four different individuals now before the contracts are even mailed.”

Dr. Larry Cebula, associate professor of history, thinks the controversy over Locher’s salary has been “overblown.”

“Even now, Dr. Locher is making less money than his colleagues at comparable institutions,” he said. “Much less money, in fact, than he’s worth. The only controversy here, the only scandal here, is that it takes a clerical error for somebody on this campus to be paid something close to what they’re worth.”