The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 19, 2013

MSSU board approves settlement agreement with fired president

JOPLIN, Mo. — Bruce Speck, whose contract as president of Missouri Southern State University was terminated last week, will receive the equivalent of a year’s salary as well as housing and health insurance benefits through the end of the year.

Those terms were approved Wednesday by the Board of Governors.

According to the agreement, which also carried Speck’s signature, the university will pay Speck:

• All contract benefits through the end of this month.

• Twelve monthly installments, beginning in July, totaling $185,400, which is the amount of his annual salary.

• His health coverage through December. The agreement also requires the university to make available to Speck’s wife the same health coverage, at her expense, through December.

• A monthly housing allowance of $3,333.33 through December.

• $14,261.53, which represents 160 hours of accrued vacation pay.

The agreement requires Speck to return to the university its leased vehicle as well as other university property such as keys, computers, telephones or credit cards. It also includes a clause that stipulates that Speck may not sue the university.

The board voted unanimously last week to terminate Speck’s contract, which was effective through June 30, 2015. Sherry Buchanan, chairwoman of the board, disclosed the vote earlier this week and said in a statement that the termination was “by mutual agreement” of the board and Speck.

Ron Mitchell, a Joplin attorney representing the board, said he thinks the agreement is “amicable” to both parties.

“It was very important that we be fair, that we move forward in a positive fashion, that we not get bogged down with this to the detriment of the future,” Mitchell said after the board’s meeting at his office.

Mitchell said many of the terms of the agreement — the paying of accrued vacation time and health insurance, for example — are standard university policy regarding the departure of an employee. The payment of one year’s salary isn’t standard procedure for employees, he said.

“Given the fact that he had two years left on the contract, I think everybody thought that was fair,” he said.

Joy Dworkin, president of the faculty senate, said when contacted by the Globe on Wednesday night that she thinks the settlement is “going beyond” what is listed in Speck’s contract.

According to his contract, the president would be paid his base salary and health coverage for six additional months in a situation wherein his contract was terminated “by mutual consent” and initiated by the board. He would not be paid salary or benefits beyond his date of termination in the same situation if he initiated the termination, under the contract.

“I would say that I’m not shocked, but that does seem generous,” Dworkin said of the terms of the settlement. “I suppose I could say I’m somewhat disappointed that this is an expensive settlement for Missouri Southern, but I feel quite confident that the faculty nevertheless is eager for us to move on to new leadership.”

Speck has been out of his office and unavailable for comment for about three weeks now.

Buchanan has repeatedly declined to comment on his absence. She also has declined to comment on why Speck’s contract was terminated, saying only that it is a personnel matter.

Mitchell said Speck’s last official day as president was Friday, the same day that the board voted to terminate his contract. He said he didn’t know when Speck’s last day on campus was, or why he had been gone.

In Speck’s absence, Mitchell said, the day-to-day operation of the university has fallen to the president’s council, which consists of the university’s four vice presidents and the director of athletics, as well as the leader of the Board of Governors.

What’s next?

AN INTERIM PRESIDENT has not yet been named by the board. The board is to meet at 4 p.m. today in Billingsly Student Center for its regular monthly meeting.

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