HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii Board of Regents voted unanimously Thursday to pay outgoing UH President MRC Greenwood an annual rate of nearly $300,000 for a tenured medical school faculty post after she completes a year-long leave without pay.
The regents made that announcement after an hours-long executive session during which they met in secret, in spite of pleas to discuss the issue in public.
John Holtzman, a retired diplomat who was elected Board of Regents chair earlier in the day, announced that Greenwood will help establish a center at the John A. Burns School of Medicine to study obesity and diabetes, medical problems that afflict Native Hawaiians at much higher rates than other ethnicities.
Holzman said Greenwood is a nationally recognized expert in the field.
"I think it's a bargain for this state to be able to retain a scientist and a manager of her caliber to lead this, or to help this effort," Holzman said.
Under the proposal approved by the regents, Greenwood will become a tenured professor at the UH medical school at a monthly salary of $24,470, which comes out to an annual rate of $293,640. The regents said she plans to work in Hawaii about six months a year so her salary would amount to nearly $150,000 a year for a half-time position.
"If prologue follows history this scientist can do more in six months than most people can do in a year, so I think we are getting a bargain," said UH Regent Chuck Gee.
Retired UH Journalism Professor Bev Keever told regents Thursday morning that discussing Greenwood's salary in secret "violates the very spirit and letter of the sunshine law," in testimony before the board Thursday morning.
Keever said such closed-door talks are "inexcusable" at a large institution which is Hawaii's only public university.
Malia Zimmerman, a journalist who's editor of the news Web site Hawaii Reporter, also asked the regents to hold a discussion about Greenwood's salary in public.
"It's a personnel matter and it will be discussed in executive session," said outgoing Board of Regents Chairman Eric Martinson in a brief response.
Greenwood plans to step down on Aug. 31 and will take a year of personal leave without pay and then start work at the medical school in September of 2014.
Her annual rate pay rate of $293,640 would be more than double the median pay of $129,367 for UH medical school professors, according to a database of salaries provided by the UH faculty union.
The ceiling for UH medical school salaries comparable to Greenwood's experience ranking is $317,496, the regents said in a statement Friday.
"Her academic credentials are equal, if not more distinguished, than those of the highest paid faculty members and the proposed salary is the average of the top five salaries at the medical school," the regents' statement said.
The regents went behind closed doors for lunch and to discuss at least nine items behind closed doors from about 12:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Thursday The board held its monthly meeting at the UH Cancer Center in Kakaako.
Greenwood announced in May she will step down with two years remaining on her $475,000-a-year contract. She had come under fire for her handling of UH's failed Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath. Greenwood, 70, has claimed her decision to step down did not have anything to do with that controversy but rather because she wants to spend more time with her family and take care of health problems.