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State auditor to meet with state college officials over president’s payout

A fiscal watchdog group is calling for the state to investigate the retirement package and continuing pay for Dana Mohler-Faria, former president of Bridgewater State University. George Rizer for The Boston Globe/file

Governor Charlie Baker, frustrated by a quarter-million-dollar payout given to the former president of Bridgewater State College, said Friday that officials may overhaul the rules that allow college administrators to be paid handsomely for their unused sick and vacation time.

Dana Mohler-Faria collected the $269,984 payment when he retired last June after 13 years as Bridgewater State’s president. Mohler-Faria, who worked for 39 years in state government, also receives a $183,421 annual pension and an additional $8,333 a month to serve as an adviser to Bridgewater State.

“Governor Baker is disappointed to learn of this payout and believes all state entities must take fiscal responsibility seriously to protect taxpayer funds,” said Baker’s spokeswoman, Lizzy Guyton.


Guyton said James A. Peyser, the education secretary, and Carlos E. Santiago, the commissioner of higher education, have begun gathering information about existing policies and oversight procedures.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative watchdog group, called on the state auditor, Suzanne Bump, to launch an investigation into the retirement package and consulting pay, which were first reported by the Boston Business Journal.

“The deal Mohler-Faria struck insults the hard-working taxpayers of Massachusetts,” said Paul Craney, the alliance’s executive director.

A spokesman said Bump plans to meet next week with Bridgewater State officials, who are conducting their own internal review of the payout. “We hope that it will be sufficient, but if we feel there are any gaps, we will consider conducting an audit,” said Bump’s spokesman, Mike Wessler.

C.J. O’Donnell — president of the Massachusetts State College Association, the union that represents state college faculty and librarians — pointed out that Bridgewater State administrators awarded only a 2 percent pay increase to adjunct faculty in their latest contract, settled in January.

“They were telling us there was no money, no money, no money,” O’Donnell said. “Maybe this is the reason why Bridgewater couldn’t afford more than 2 percent this year.”


Bridgewater State’s board of trustees said Mohler-Faria’s payout was calculated in accordance with state rules that allow higher education officials to be paid for their unused sick and vacation time when they leave government. Those policies were established by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in 2012, according to officials.

Under those rules, departing higher education officials can be paid for the full value of up to 64 days of their unused vacation time. Any additional vacation time is rolled into a sick leave bank, and officials can cash out 20 percent of the value of that time when they retire.

“The payment to President Emeritus Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria for accrued sick and vacation time was determined by state policy and regulations and reflects the length of his 40-year career in public service,” the trustees said in a statement. “His 13 years as president of Bridgewater State University was a period of extraordinary growth for the university and in the opportunities available to our more than 11,000 students.”

Still, the trustees said, they — along with the current university administration — have launched an internal review of unused sick and vacation time and will cooperate with any outside review of Mohler-Faria’s record.

State employees in the rest of the executive branch — such as those who work in the Transportation Department — have their own policies that cap how much they can collect in unused sick and vacation time.


Those rules allow them to cash out up to twice their annual vacation allotment plus 20 percent of the value of unused sick time.

Mohler-Faria was 67 when he retired and was paid $285,600 in his final year as Bridgewater State’s president, according to university officials. He was the first person of color to lead the university and only the second Cape Verdean to be elected president of any American college, according to his biography.

He had previously served as a special adviser on education to Governor Deval Patrick and in administrative posts at Mount Wachusett Community College, Bristol Community College, and Cape Cod Community College.

The university acknowledged that Mohler-Faria logged 29 national and foreign trips in his final three years as president, including four visits to Cape Verde, two to Belize, and one to Las Vegas. But the trustees said those trips were undertaken with their support and were designed to raise money for the university or boost its programs abroad.

University officials said, for example, that Bridgewater State has “a unique and deep relationship” with Cape Verde and was instrumental in the founding of Universidade de Cabo Verde, its first institution of higher education.

The university said it also has a “strong partnership” with Belize and, since 2005, has sent 12 students there every year to work at an Anglican primary school. Mohler-Faria traveled to Las Vegas, university officials said, to attend a conference of the Association of Title IX Coordinators.


The trips “were undertaken to advance the university’s major strategic priorities,” the trustees said.

Levenson can be reached at