Commentary: Facts, accuracy matter when talking salaries

Just like the change of seasons, every couple of months we can look for a column from Bill Bowden that takes cheap shots at our statewide community college. He spent last spring and summer spreading discredited rumors of mismanagement in an unsuccessful effort to derail critical funding for college facilities. Now he’s making dishonest comparisons regarding executive compensation. (“Balancing the pay scales for top Delaware officials,” Dec. 1)

Mr. Bowden’s remarks are dishonest because he’s comparing “apples to oranges” with the intent of misleading the reader into thinking that the Delaware Tech board has acted irresponsibly by developing compensation for our president that is out of line with his peers. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Brian Shirey, Esq.

Thoughtful leaders do not make decisions in a vacuum. Instead, they rely on the best available data. In the case of compensation, that requires research in the form of compensation surveys to determine what is reasonable based on a specific position. That’s what the Delaware Compensation Committee does when making its recommendations for positions in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. That’s also what every other well-run organization does when setting executive compensation, and that’s exactly what Delaware Tech’s board did when determining the compensation of our president.

For the data to be meaningful, comparisons must be made based on the same position. Comparing a college president to a secretary of health and human services, or a secretary of human resources to a commissioner of corrections, serves no purpose other than to mislead the reader.

An honest evaluation would compare Dr. Brainard’s compensation to the compensation paid to the presidents of the other two publicly supported institutions of higher education in Delaware, but you’ll never hear of Mr. Bowden doing so because it doesn’t support his agenda. Just a few weeks ago, our retiring board chairman, Scott Green, stated in a letter to the editor that public review of compensation levels of public officials is totally appropriate.

Taxpayers have a right to know this information. However, Mr. Green also pointed out that such reviews should include all higher ed presidents and senior officials to provide context and accuracy for the readers. Again, facts and accuracy never seem to matter to Mr. Bowden.

One final point. I do not know anyone who entered public service for the money. Speaking for myself (since Mr. Bowden brought my salary into the discussion), I left a very lucrative private practice to become general counsel for Delaware Tech – and took more than a $100,000 cut in pay to do so. Those are facts.

People enter public service because they want to make a difference and serve the community. At Delaware Tech, we do it because we believe in helping Delawareans gain job skills that will change their lives and the lives of their families.

I guess we can look forward to Mr. Bowden’s next column – a review that compares the salaries of NFL punters with relief pitchers in Major League Baseball. It would be just as silly and useless as him most recent one.

Brian Shirey is general counsel for Delaware Technical Community College

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