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Despite Disclosure, Some Say Rutgers President Should Resign from Corporate Boards

7-24-13

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

Rutgers officials say University President Robert Barchi made it clear during the recruitment process that he serves on two corporate boards — VWR and Covance. Both have contracts with Rutgers to provide supplies and services. Last year Barchi, who earns $650,000 as university president, was paid about $300,000 in fees and stocks from both companies. Despite his disclosure, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg says that’s not enough.

“This is $300,000 here. So I would like to find out from the Board of Governors, do they know what he’s being paid for? What it is he is giving to these companies,” Weinberg said.

We asked those questions and requested an interview with President Barchi. He wasn’t available. A spokesperson sent a letter showing Barchi alerted his senior staff that he has not been involved with any decisions related to the companies. But because there could be a conflict of interest, he said, “Please ensure that I am screened from any information or communications on any such matters.” However the letter, the only written clarification on this matter, came long after he came on board as president.

“And I am somewhat surprised thgat they approved htis arrangement. There was nothing in writing, apparently, nothing to make sure that there was an agreement that he would recuse himself. Although I have no reason to believe that he hasn’t, but did they find out exactly what it is he has to do for these companies?” Weinberg asked.

Paul Shelly of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities says it’s pretty common for university presidents to sit on both for-profit and non-profit boards. The key, he says, is full disclosure. And there can be some benefits.

In fact, the university’s Board of Governors acknowledged it’s appropriate and beneficial for Barchi to serve on outside boards, as long as he gets approval and it doesn’t detract from his duties as university president. However, Sen. Weinberg disagrees.

“I think that President Barchi should resign from the boards,” she said. “And that would answer those questions, would answer my questions in any event. We wouldn’t have to find out anymore how many hours he is required to spend there.”

It’s been a tumultuous year for Barchi who has come under fire for the way the university handled scandals within the athletics department that cost Rutgers about $2 million. But Gov. Christie reportedly supports Barchi on this matter, saying there isn’t any evidence he’s done anything wrong.