One influential Democrat said Tuesday she’ll call for a Senate hearing unless University President Robert Barchi can give her an explanation for the decisions.
“Rutgers is playing fast and loose with taxpayer money,” Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D‐Bergen, said Tuesday. “Whose money do they think they’re throwing around here?”
The criticism comes after an NJ Advance Media analysis found Rutgers has agreed to pay out more than $11.5 million in settlements, contract buyouts and sabbatical payments to more than a dozen top coaches and officials over the past decade.
That latest happened last month when Rutgers New Brunswick Chancellor Deba Dutta resigned after one year on the job and received a one‐year, $480,000 sabbatical before returning to teaching. The sabbatical was not included in Dutta’s contract unless he had worked for five years as chancellor.
A week later, NJ Advance Media revealed Rutgers paid former Athletic Director Julie Hermann about $500,000 more than she was owed for being fired without cause in 2015. Hermann was already owed about $1.1 million but got the additional compensation in exchange for agreeing not to sue the university for wrongful termination, NJ Advance Media learned.
Weinberg sent a letter to Barchi this week calling such payouts “a gross misapplication of university resources,” according to a copy of the letter provided to reporters.
She called for transparency, including explanations about why top officials were let go and what payments were or were not contractually obligated.
Some of the decisions were made prior to Barchi’s arrival at Rutgers in 2012, but the university will be happy to discuss any cases that happened during his tenure, spokeswoman Carissa Sestito said.
“We will certainly provide a detailed response to her letter,” Sestito said. “The settlements were all entered into with the best interests of the university in mind.”
Weinberg’s criticism echoed complaints from Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R‐Morris, who called Dutta’s sabbatical “insane.”
“Tuition dollars should be spent on students, not boat checks for administrators,” Pennacchio said. “It is completely unfair and unjust to ask taxpayers and students to continue to subsidize this kind of reckless spending.”
Rutgers receives about 20 percent of its funding from the state, according to the university.
Staff writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report.