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Regents to pay firm $200K for UI president search

Firm fee double that of ISU and UNI searches

The Iowa Board of Regents members talk during a meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Iowa Board of Regents members talk during a meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The state Board of Regents is planning to pay an Atlanta-based firm $200,000 to assist in its search for a new University of Iowa president — more than double what it paid the same firm during searches at Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa.

That $200,000 will cover only the contract with Parker Executive Search and will not include other costs associated with the hunt for a 21st UI president, including expenses for travel, advertising, research and communication, according to Board of Regents spokeswoman Sheila Koppin.

The board hasn’t executed a contract with Parker for the UI search yet, but its previous contracts with ISU in 2011 and UNI in 2012 included set fees of $95,000 and $90,000, respectively. Both contracts stipulated the fees would be invoiced in three equal increments -- $31,666 for ISU and $30,000 for UNI — at the beginning of the search and then at 30 days and 60 days into the process.

In addition to the professional fees, the contracts said expenses for things like long-distance calls, research, delivery services, and travel would be billed on an out-of-pocket basis.

“We make every effort to hold reimbursable expenses to a minimum and will ensure that our expenses do not exceed 10 percent of the fee,” according to the contracts.

All expenses for things like advertising, search committee interview and travel expenses, and candidate travel expenses would be invoiced separately to the university.

The Board of Regents on Tuesday didn’t clarify why its planning to pay Parker twice as much for the UI search as it did for the ISU and UNI searches.

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James P. Ferrare, managing principal for AGB Search in Washington D.C., said the industry standard for search firms is to charge either a flat fee or a retainer valued at one-third of the hired employee’s first-year salary. Flat fees typically stay under $100,000, Ferrare said, and it’s normal for firms to charge expenses on top of that.

Ferarre said $200,000 “does seem to be higher” than standard fees, but he said that might be indicative of what they plan to pay a new president or that the university involves a large health care system.

Outdoing UI President Sally Mason, who announced last month that she plans to retire Aug. 1, is making $525,828 this year. One-third of that is $175,276. When she was hired in 2007, Mason earned a starting salary of $450,000, one-third of which is $150,000.

A 2014 report out of the Institute for Policy Studies shows executive compensation at public research universities rose 14 percent between 2009 and 2012 to an average of $544,554. Compensation for those presidents at institutions paying higher-than-average salaries rose 34 percent during that same period to $974,006.

UI is not among the nation’s 25 top-paying universities, according to the report, but some of its Big 10 counterparts are, including Ohio State University, which ranked No. 1 for awarding $10.2 million in total compensation to its top executive from 2006 to 2012.

The University of Michigan also made the list at No. 6, the University of Minnesota ranked No. 12, and Rutgers University ranked No. 17.

The Board of Regents earlier this month outlined the makeup of a 21-member UI presidential search committee, which will include representatives from the faculty, staff, student body and community. On Monday, the board announced plans to use Parker Executive Search to help facilitate the process, citing its previous work with the firm.

“The Board was very pleased with the process and the results of our two previous presidential searches,” said regents President Bruce Rastetter.

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Parker has worked with intercollegiate athletics programs, colleges and universities, Fortune 500 corporations, and hospitals and health systems. Its clients have included the universities of Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, South Caroline, and Tennessee.

A USA Today investigation in 2013, however, questioned Parker’s thoroughness. According to that report, Parker — among other things — failed to uncover accusations of verbal abuse involving a Rutgers University athletics director it helped the institution hire.

Other Parker searches raised similar questions about how the firm vets candidates, according to the USA Today report, including its help landing Indiana University basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. Two months after that hire in 2006, the NCAA punished Sampson for recruiting violations at his former job.

Officials with Parker did not return calls from The Gazette on Tuesday.

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