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What Lesson Is Baltimore City Community College Teaching?
In 2022, their president made $593,000. Debra L. McCurdy, Ph.D. was the second most highly compensated community college employee in the country.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. McCurdy’s high pay disturbed the community at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC).
And now? The college is stonewalling transparency, accountability, and a full accounting.
In the transparency business, actions count. Words don’t. Actions tell the truth.
BCCC’s actions are clear. They are teaching that the public – its students and taxpayers – have little right to know or ask questions.
In 2022, McCurdy made more than President Biden ($400,000), the mayor of Baltimore ($196,248), four-star generals and admirals ($197,303), the Maryland governor ($180,000), and even Dr. Anthony Fauci, in his final year ($480,000).
Paid $1.5 Million In Wages Since May 2019
Since her start date on May 1, 2019, in roughly three and a half years, Dr. McCurdy reaped $1.5 million in cash compensation (wages) according to production from the Maryland State Office of Comptroller via our open records request.
McCurdy earned $34,000 per month, on average, over her first 44 months of employment. By 2021, her payout was $392,000 and by 2022 it jumped to $593,000.
How? Well, part of the story is salary spiking.
McCurdy’s salary spiked by $100,000 from $305,000 (May 2019) to $405,546 (2023), according to partial BCCC production via our Maryland Pubic Information Act request.
In fact, McCurdy received eight “ad-hoc compensation changes” since she was hired. Just two months after she started, McCurdy received an immediate salary hike from $305,000 to $314,150.
However, there’s more. It turns out that the board amended Dr. McCurdy’s contract in October 2021 and it’s loaded with very lucrative perquisites.
Consider the contract’s cash benefits beyond salary:
$40,000 in annual housing allowance; plus $10,000 in one-time home closing costs
$25,000 annual bonus
$15,600 est. value for lump sum cash-in of up to 10 unused vacation days each year (math: 260 workdays divided by 2023 base salary $405,546 times 10 days)
$12,000 car allowance
$10,000 lump sum into a second retirement pension
reimbursed for reasonable entertainment expenses; provided dues for membership business club and professional organizations; and technology allowance.
And there are more benefits:
$20,000 est. annual value – the employer cost of McCurdy’s health insurance benefit (math: $70,000 cost from May 2019 through 12/2022).
$98,300 est. annual value of 63 days of paid time off: 30 vacation days, 3 personal days; up to 10 holidays, 15 sick days, and 5 days over winter break (math: 260 workdays divided by 2023 base salary of $405,000 times 63 PTO days)
$80,000 est. annual value – the employer payment into McCurdy’s public pension plan (math: estimated at 20-percent of base salary ($405,000 times .20) or an est. value of $300,000 since inception of her employment (math: $1.5 million in wages divided by .20)
All told, if our estimates are correct, then McCurdy’s total taxpayer cost since May 2019 exceeds $2 million.
Why estimate? Because, BCCC will not say. The college gets an “incomplete” of public disclosure. On “Respect for the Taxpayer,” BCCC’s grade is clearly, “F.”
BCCC has provided some information – when prodded. For example, our auditors had a phone conversation with Gussener Augustus, Vice President for Advancement:
President McCurdy should have received, but didn’t, incentives (her full 5% increase) and supplemental compensation during a portion of 2019, and all of 2020 and 2021, totaling $188,334. That amount was paid to her in over a 12-month period starting in 2021, ending 2022 leading to the $593,000 figure. ‘The inaccuracies were reconciled once discovered and provided to Dr. McCurdy,’ as you put.
However, to date, the college has refused to produce:
McCurdy’s initial contract initially agreed to between the parties in August 7, 2018
A breakdown by type of compensation (Salary, Bonus, Car Allowance, Housing Allowance, etc.) of the $1.5 million paid to Dr. McCurdy between May 2019 and December 31, 2022.
McCurdy got the cash while students, taxpayers, and watchdogs, like us, still fly blind.
With all the press coverage, over the last couple days, there are some indications that BCCC’s general counsel, Maria Rodriquez, is open to producing the McCurdy’s initial contract and full break down of compensation since 2019.
Without having McCurdy’s initial employment contract and the financial payout accounting, hardworking students and taxpayers cannot know. We simply must pay as there is no way to fact check BCCC.
Top-Paid President’s Pay Is An Outlier
In 2022, we found McCurdy made three times as much as the next highest paid employee, Micheal Thomas, vice president of workforce development and continuing education at $192,000.
Only three employees made between $150,000 and $192,000. Two dozen made between $100,000-$149,999. Some 214 employees made between $50,000 and $99,999 and another 126 employees earned $25,000 to $49,999.
In fact, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com filed Freedom of Information Act requests with approximately 800 community colleges across the country and Dr. McCurdy ranked second highest in wages for 2022.
For all of this compensation, one might expect new educational record setting to come from BCCC.
Instead, the college is going in the wrong direction:
The college teacher’s union is pushing a no-confidence petition regarding McCurdy’s leadership.
In the real world, one might expect the highly compensated top employee to be held accountable. So far, BCCC just cashes in and the college executives stonewall.
(Dr. Debra McCurdy, BCCC Board Chairman Kurt Schmoke and the BCCC board of trustees have not been accused of wrongdoing.)
As CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, I requested permission from McCurdy and Schmoke to address the board during the “pubic comment” portion of the meeting of the college board of trustees on September 20, 2023. It was ignored, as was my request for a link to observe the virtual board meeting — so, I’ve filed a compliant with the Maryland Attorney General.
Review all BCCC payroll since 2017 on our website at OpenTheBooks.com.
Here is the contract that is the daydream of every public employee in history. See for yourself:
OpenTheBooks.com – We believe transparency is transformational. Using forensic auditing and open records, we hold government accountable.
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