- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen has asked the board of trustees to remove a $225,000 bonus from his contract of the type that has suddenly become controversial with the ouster of Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

Killeen asked university board of trustees Chairman Ed McMillan on Wednesday for trustees to restructure his contract to remove the longevity-based bonus, spokesman Tom Hardy said Thursday. The bonus would have been due to first-year president after he worked five years at the university.

A $400,000 retention bonus that the university agreed last week to pay Wise as she announced her resignation seemed to be at the heart of the decision Wednesday to reject her resignation, withhold the bonus and instead begin proceedings to fire her.

Ahead of the vote, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration strongly objected to paying the bonus as the state struggles through a budget stalemate and huge projected budget deficit.

“(Killeen) has said that he wants to do away with these kinds of retention incentives,” Hardy said, adding that McMillan seemed receptive to the idea.

McMillan did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Killeen’s contract also includes a performance-based bonus of up to $100,000 in his first year, a figure the deal says the board could increase in subsequent years. Killeen’s salary is $600,000 a year.

The university has been moving toward more performance-based bonuses for top executives over the past couple of years.

Both former President Robert Easter, Killeen’s predecessor, and former University of Illinois-Chicago Chancellor Paul Allen-Meares received performance bonuses for meeting preset objectives over the past couple of years.

Another trustee, James Montgomery, said he was aware when he voted in January to appoint Killeen that the contract contained a retention bonus. Such incentives have been common in the past, he said. Montgomery blames the state government’s financial situation for making them an issue.

“We just have to look at it in a different light,” he said, calling Killeen’s move to change his contract “laudable.”

Performance-based bonuses are becoming more common. Purdue University’s Mitch Daniels’ potential bonus is performance-based. And the higher education consulting firm Yaffe & Company says 44.1 percent of university presidents last year had pay that is in part performance-based, up from 32.4 percent in 2010-11, according to a survey of the private universities.

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