Friday, August 24, 2007

Thorns to student loan agency for handing out excessive bonuses

A couple of Thorns (ouch!) handed out today by The Mercury to PHEAA and to the State Police. Here's the editorial below. I agree 100 percent with both comments:

THORNS to the officials who run Pennsylvania’s student loan agency for another round of exorbitant spending by an agency with a history of wasting money. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which was widely criticized earlier this year when it was revealed it spent nearly $900,000 for lavish trips and gifts for its administrators, board members and spouses, has awarded more than $500,000 in bonuses to its top executives. The biggest bonus approved by an executive committee of PHEAA’s 20-member board went to PHEAA’s top executive, Richard E. Willey, who will receive $180,857 in addition to his annual salary of $289,118. Bonuses of $113,514 each were awarded to Tim Guenther, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Brian Lecher, executive vice president of information technology and chief information officer; and James Preston, executive vice president of client relations and loan operations. Kelly Powell Logan, executive vice president of public service and marketing, received a $52,436 bonus. Guenther, Lecher and Preston earn annual salaries of $217,757 each; Logan’s is $201,178. PHEAA previously awarded $852,834 in bonuses in the 2005-06 fiscal year to Willey and six executive vice presidents. “Disturbing, to say the least,” is how a spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell greeted the news of the bonuses. “This is another example of the agency’s failure to understand that its mission is to help students pay for college and not to provide further compensation for well-paid executives,” Chuck Ardo said. We agree. While PHEAA, a nonprofit corporation created and largely controlled by the Legislature, finances its operating expenses from its own investments, it receives $500 million a year in state taxpayer money. The lack of oversight by members of the Legislature who make up the PHEAA board is equally disturbing. A major overhaul of the agency and its board is overdue.

THORNS to the Pennsylvania State Police for not considering the impact on the state’s hunters and gun shop owners when the agency decided to shut down the state’s computerized criminal background check system from Sept. 2-6. The state police announced last week that it was planning to suspend the background checks during the Labor Day weekend to upgrade its computer system, a move that would halt gun sales during the first days of dove and Canada geese hunting seasons. Timing appears to be a problem for the state police. The agency failed to respond in a timely manner during the Valentine’s Day ice storm that stranded thousands of motorists on Interstate 78. The state police’s top brass also drew criticism from lawmakers and residents when it decided to close many of its barracks at 5 p.m. in a money-saving move. Shutting down the computer system at the start of hunting season is another example of bad timing on the part of the state police. The computer maintenance could be done later in the fall or winter.

Copyright 2007, The Mercury

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