Outgoing University of Washington President Mark Emmert has done a terrific job. And we are certain he will be every bit as good in his new position as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Emmert announced his resignation in April and, as stipulated in his contract, gave his employers a six-month written notice. Emmert is slated to take the helm of the NCAA on Nov. 1.
But Emmert would now like to get started at the NCAA a little earlier and leave his UW post Oct. 1. This is allowable under his contract if he gives the university an amount equal to one month of his base salary -- $51,666. Emmert's annual base pay is $620,000 although his total compensation is $906,500.
The university's Board of Regents should allow him to leave early but must hold him to the contract terms. Given the state's dire financial situation, and as a matter of principle, the state should collect the cash.
It's tough to say that amount of money is insignificant when the state is looking at laying off people who make less than that. A teacher could stay on the job for another year with the $50,000-plus.
In addition, students are facing significant tuition increases. Those additional dollars can be tough to come by.
Nevertheles, the Board of Regents on Monday unanimously agreed to let its chairman, Herb Simon, negotiate the terms of allowing Emmert to leave early.
Seattle Times reporter Katherine Long wrote this means the university could change the terms of the contract, "possibly even waiving the need for Emmert to pay back a month's worth of his salary."
We can understand why the Board of Regents might, as a way to show its appreciation, want to waive the penalty for leaving early. Emmert was a rainmaker who brought in millions and millions of dollars for the UW. He is certainly worthy of this gesture.
But the move sends the wrong message to taxpayers at a very difficult time for the state.
Allow Emmert to begin his new job a month early, wish him well and collect the money owed the UW.
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