Friday, October 10, 2003

No Severance For You!

UT trustees rescind Shumaker's severance package

'The University of Tennessee trustees unanimously rescinded a severance package for former President John Shumaker on Friday after a state comptroller's investigation suggested Shumaker violated state law.
Sounds like a coach suspending or dismissing a player from the team who's just been charged with a crime. Not convicted, not even indicted - just charged. While the evidence may be overwhelming, as of now the investigation "suggests" that state law was broken.

'Gov. Phil Bredesen, who's also chairman of the trustees, recommended the board scuttle the severance deal that he helped negotiate.

"Given the fact that I don't believe he was truthful with us, I no longer feel any personal obligation to support the package," Bredesen told the board.'
You think he lied, therefore you're breaking your end of the deal. Why does this sound like Bredesen was planning for something like this all along, and only negotiated the wacky severance deal in the first place to buy time?

'"In misrepresenting his actions, Dr. Shumaker may have violated Tennessee statutes that require public officials to cooperate with auditors and that prohibit tampering with or fabricating official records," the report said.'
Again, "may have violated." Is there something wrong with the judicial system in Tennessee that they can't wait until the case is tried in court? Y'know, legally and stuff?

'The UT Foundation hasn't taken any action on the severance. Jim Haslam, the foundation chairman and a trustee, said all the foundation board members unanimously believed they were "under no legal obligation to pay anything and will not pay."'
Nice to know the board doesn't feel obligated to uphold their ends of deals. Isn't something like a severance package a binding contract - at least in the abstract?

Ok, Shumaker was a rat, and I respect Bredesen - I still believe both those things, but this whole severence package rescindment just smells of something that was hoped for and planned for way back when. Maybe they had real reason to believe Shumaker'd be accused of breaking the law and never believed they'd have to go through with the payment at all. Regardless, demonstrating that state agreements and contracts can be broken at a whim does not settle well. It's not fair, and it's not just. Not in the legal system that I respect.

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