Finding the right IT executive talent can be expensive, but how much should WCC have paid for a Chief Information Officer and a Chief Information Security Officer? The practical answer to the question is that WCC should always pay the market rate for these positions. The actual answer to that question lies in an IT executive contract that the WCC administration signed for these services with a Florida firm called Campus Works.
In 2018, WCC agreed to pay Campus Works more than $1.5M for two consulting IT executives for a period of two years. The CIO consultant replaced William Johnson, WCC’s Chief Financial Officer, who was also acting as the College’s interim CIO. The CISO position was new to WCC. (The question of why the CFO was acting as the CIO is probably best reserved for another time. One could easily imagine that a community college that is curiously well-funded yet poorly maintained might benefit from the undivided attention of its Chief Financial Officer.)
The going rate for a CIO
If $353,784 per year for a CIO in higher education sounds expensive, it is. In fact, it’s expensive in any sector and any city in the United States. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a Chief information Officer is currently about $158,000 per year. Among CIOs with 20 or more years of experience, the average salary rose to $176,000 per year.
Certain cities are classified as high-wage labor markets. These high-wage cities often pay a premium salary to accommodate the higher cost of housing, transportation, food, state and local taxes, and other inflated costs there.
For CIOs, New York City offers the highest annual average compensation. CIO salaries in New York City are 28% higher than the national average. A CIO with 20 or more years of experience in the highest-wage city in the United States would make about $225,000 per year. (As a point of comparison, the average annual salary for CIOs in Detroit is about $184,000.) Ironically, Ellucian – WCC’s new managed service provider – pays its CIOs about $138,000 per year – nearly 13% below market rate.
A Chief IT executive in New York City makes nearly $129,000 less than what WCC paid its CIO/consultant. Per year. The contract also far exceeds the salary of WCC’s highest-paid employee, WCC President Rose Bellanca.
How much should the taxpayers pay for a CISO?
As part of the consulting contract, Campus Works also agreed to supply a Chief Information Security Officer. Currently, the national average salary for a CISO is $159,846, again according to Payscale.com. The salary for a CISO with 20 or more years of experience is about $173,000. The highest “high-wage” city for CISOs – Chicago – pays an additional 24% over the national average. That means the highest average salary for CISO’s in Chicago is about $198,000 annually.
WCC paid exactly the same for the CISO as it did for the CIO, even though the labor market has established different pay scales for these functions. Last September, WCC also extended the contract for the CISO. It now expires in June 30, 2020.
The funny thing about Campus Works
Campus Works may not be familiar to the taxpayers in Washtenaw County, but David Rutledge should be. He served as a Trustee of Washtenaw Community College from 1977 to 2010. Following that, he served as the 54th District representative to the Michigan Legislature, until he was term-limited.
When you look at the State of Michigan’s Campaign Finance database for David Rutledge, he lists himself as an employee of Campus Works in his 2010 and 2011 filings. In addition, he is currently listed on the Campus Works website as a member of the Executive Advisory Board. Not surprisingly, Campus Works lists Macomb Community College – Rose Bellanca’s former employer – among its clientele.
WCC’s Board of Trustees must avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest at all times. Admittedly, it is common for educational institutions to hire the same consulting firm. Writing a $1.5M contract for IT executive services at nearly twice the market rate for a company with ties to a former WCC Board Member looks bad.
The Trustees owe a duty of loyalty exclusively to the taxpayers – not the College administrators or old friends. WCC could have easily obtained the IT services provided by Campus Works at a fraction of the cost of what the Trustees signed off on. By hiring permanent candidates into these positions, the Board of Trustees could have saved WCC and its taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Washtenaw County taxpayers can no longer afford WCC’s runaway Board of Trustees and its “Spare No Expense!” approach to administration of the College, especially when a growing number of large contracts carry the hazy appearance of a “Friends and Family” plan.
Vote on Proposal 1 on March 10, 2020.
Photo Credit: Marco, via Flickr.com