Trustees cost university $74,000 in 2014

Anthony Viola

Press release about Board of Trustees expenses forwarded to NMU faculty and staff

Northern Michigan University complied with a FOIA request submitted by The North Wind. The request, submitted Feb. 11, asked for “electronic copies of all expense reports, travel records and budget reports for the Board of Trustees from Jan. 1, 2014 to Feb. 10, 2015.”

Along with providing the documents, Derek Hall, the vice president of identity, brand and marketing, sent a press release to the faculty of NMU. President Erickson made the decision to send out a campus wide email to highlight the reports released in the FOIA.

“[The president and I] talked about it being important for us to get the key points that we believe are contained in the information out,” Hall said, “and we chose to do it via campus wide email.”

Students were excluded from receiving the release.

“I believe that students should be included in the discussion and exchange of information with administrators and faculty members,” ASNMU President Kat Klawes said. “I think that administration communicating with students regarding cost expenditures is especially important considering that students are the ones footing the bill for most of the university costs through their tuition payments.”

The reports show a $50,503.00 budget for the Board of Trustees. In the press release, Derek Hall said “83 percent of the budget is to cover travel expenses for the volunteer board members,” or $42,053.

The press release also noted that an additional $24,000 were allocated to travel expenses related to the presidential search in the first two quarters of 2014. The additional allocations took the Trustees’ budget from approximately $50,000 to more than $74,000.

“Paying travel for trustees is normal operating procedure,” Hall said. “There’s nothing extravagant there and we have nothing to hide with the information.”

The university covers expenses getting the trustees from their location to campus, which includes rental cars, air travel expenses, parking, road tolls, hotel stays and meals.

The first two quarters show added travel-related expenses and to the 2014 presidential search. The second two quarters show travel expenses related to regular meetings.

Different trustees’ accounts show different expense amounts, due mostly to their residencies, which are not all in the Marquette area. For example, Trustee Rick Popp’s travel expense for the July 18 meeting was more than $900, whereas Trustee Sook Wilkinson’s expenses for the same meeting were less than $300.

Also included in the expense report are miscellaneous expenses.

The combined miscellaneous expenses for the first two quarters of 2014 were more than $22,000, each approximately $11,000.

Included in the miscellaneous category are unspecified lodging, food and audio/visual expenses.

For example, audio/visual expenses in the second quarter of 2014 were $490. Unspecified lodging expenses for this quarter were more than $2,000 and unspecified conference and catering expenses were more than $6,000.