MADISON, Wis. — A University of Wisconsin-Green Bay official facing questions about whether he retired and took his old position back so he could collect a salary on top of retirement benefits plans to step down in December, the school announced Friday.
The search for Tom Maki’s replacement will be launched within the next two weeks, UWGB Chancellor Tom Harden said.
Maki, the school’s vice chancellor for finance and business, has been under intense scrutiny for the past week after WISN talk radio show host Mark Belling reported that Maki retired from his post in mid-March only to be re-hired by Harden a month later to the same position. The move allowed Maki to start collecting his $131,000 salary along with his retirement benefits, estimated to fall somewhere between $40,000 and $70,000 a year.
State law permits re-hiring recent retirees as long as they’re out of a job for 30 days and they don’t set up a deal before they leave that they’ll be re-hired.
But Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, chairman of the state Assembly’s higher education committee, drew attention to the re-hire when he canceled a hearing on a bill that would allow UWGB and several other state schools to raise tuition until he got answers about Maki’s situation.
The state Department of Employee Trust Funds then launched an investigation into whether Maki ever really left his job. Harden told The Associated Press in an interview the day the investigation began that Maki never cleared out his office, although that was because Harden’s assistant filled the vice chancellor spot temporarily.
Harden has said he did everything properly. He wanted Maki back because Maki was extremely experienced and could help lead the school through deep cuts in state aid laid out in the state budget. He has acknowledged he didn’t launch any search for other candidates or post the position, choices within his power as chancellor.
The school issued a statement late Friday afternoon saying that Maki had decided to work through Dec. 16 or until his replacement is hired. He is paraphrased in the statement saying the decision was based on “personal considerations and his desire to best serve the University.’”
“If I am most proud of anything,” Maki said in the statement, “it is that I have had the opportunity to work with great people, not only in my area, but several different chancellors, university leaders and individuals across campus.”
Harden defended the re-hiring in the statement, saying he followed policy and saved thousands of dollars in employee benefits, since they’re already covered through their retirement plan.
The statement made no mention of Nass or the investigation.
Harden said in an interview that Maki had originally planned to work until next summer. Publicity over Nass withholding the bill and the investigation wasn’t a direct factor in Maki’s decision to move up his departure date, he said.
“Everything is related to some degree, not that that made things very pleasant for us,” Harden said. “He approached me with the idea that he thinks we’ve made progress, and he’d like to set a date for his departure. He suggested Dec. 16.”
Harden said he hopes to begin interviews for Maki’s replacement in November.
Shawn Smith, a spokeswoman with the Department of Employee Trust Funds, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages left after hours on Friday. Nass aide Mike Mikalsen said Nass planned to keep the tuition bill in limbo until UWGB complied with his request for documents related to Maki’s retirement and re-hire.