Oakland U prez violates contract, collects $330,000 in deferred comp anyway

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Robby Soave Reporter
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Gary Russi, who recently resigned as president of Oakland University in Michigan, will collect $334,000 in deferred compensation and other bonuses after leaving the university, despite violating a contract that required him to stay on until 2014.

Russi will make almost as much money not working for Oakland next year as he made when he was president.

The deferred compensation was approved unanimously by Oakland’s Board of Trustees, who felt Russi had earned it.

“We felt like because he had been here for so long and done so much for the university, the right thing to do was to pay him his deferred compensation,” said Michael Kramer, chairman of the board, in a statement to The Detroit Free Press.

Right or wrong, the payment violates a contract that Russi signed with Oakland in 2008. The president was required to remain at the university until the completion of the 2013-14 school year, or else forfeit his deferred compensation.

“In the event Dr. Russi resigns from the position of the University, or becomes unable to perform the duties and obligations to be performed by him as President of the University… before June 30, 2014, then this Agreement will terminate ab initio and all Deferred Compensation then accrued pursuant to this Agreement will be forfeited,” according to the contract.

Russi abruptly announced his retirement on June 12, violating another clause in his contract that required him to give 60 days notice. On the the very same day that he resigned, his wife was fired from the position of women’s basketball coach at Oakland.

Russi’s wife, Beckie Francis, was criticized harshly by anonymous and former members of the women’s basketball team in a July article in the Free Press. Some said her cozy relationship with top administrators–including her husband–made it impossible to hold her accountable. She also forced them to attend church and watch religious videos, and did everything in her power to prevent them from talking to boys — or eating snacks.

“She was fixated on my weight; she was fixated on what I ate,” said Jenna Bachrouche, a former player, in a statement to The Detroit Free Press. “I would have to have my teammates sneak me snacks on the road.”

Russi will be paid out of Oakland’s general fund, which is made up of public tax dollars and students’ tuition payments. In addition to his $334,000, he will also receive a desktop computer, laptop, printer and iPad.

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Robby Soave