UB still paying former Law School Dean Makau Mutua full salary despite his new job

Mutua, on Title F leave, has taken job with World Bank

Law professor Makau Mutua has been on leave from UB for nearly a year and recently took a job in Washington D.C., yet the university is still paying the former law school dean his full salary – a salary that nears $300,000.

Mutua is working as a human rights adviser for World Bank, an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries. Such consultants in Washington, D.C., where Mutua’s Twitter account shows he spends most of his time, make an average salary of $90,000.

World Bank would not confirm if Mutua made such a salary or his exact position, but on his social media accounts he calls himself a World Bank human rights adviser.

Mutua did not respond to Spectrum email requests for an interview about this story.

According to SUNY policy, the university president has to approve outside income for a faculty member earning salary while on sabbatical. The president also can choose to lower the faculty member’s salary if that member receives outside income while on leave.

That did not occur in Mutua’s case.

UB officials say this is because Mutua is on a special kind of leave, known as Title F leave, which doesn’t require faculty members to get approval for outside earnings.

President Satish Tripathi, and all SUNY university presidents, can grant employees Title F leave with full salary, reduced salary or no salary. UB officials confirmed Mutua is being paid full salary.

As part of the Title F application, the professor must explain the value of the work the professor will do for the university. The Spectrum requested Mutua’s Title F application early Tuesday morning, but UB officials could not produce it by press time.

Mutua, having recently stepped down as dean, taught one class in the spring of 2015 and was on leave for the fall of 2015. Still, UB paid him a salary equal to that of what he made as a dean. He made $292,443 in 2015, according to SeeThroughNY, which compiles salaries of New York state employees. He had a base salary of $255,500 and the rest was bonuses.

World Bank’s human resources department said it cannot provide compensation related information, but Glassdoor, a website that allows employees to anonymously review and post salary information of large companies, reports that the average salary of a World Bank consultant in Washington D.C. is approximately $90,000.

A World Bank human resources representative did, however, confirm that all consultant positions are paid and short-term appointments, meaning not permanent, only as of June 2015. Mutua is scheduled to teach law school classes at UB this fall, according to a professor in the law school. The law school has yet to release its fall 2016 course offerings to students.

Mutua announced his position as a “consultant” at World Bank on Facebook in October, but later specified his position as a human rights adviser.

The law school has reduced its size in recent years. The school announced in March of 2014 that it planned to shrink its incoming class from 200-225 students to fewer than 200 and to reduce its faculty from 48 to 40. Although the school has a total of 51 full-time faculty members employed, only 27 were teaching classes last fall – exactly half the amount that were teaching five years prior.

According to the UB Law School budget from the 2014-15 school year, $19.6 million of the school’s $23 million in expenditures went toward salaries and fringe benefits for employees.

Mutua receiving full salary despite being away from the school and taking on outside work is troubling beyond just the former dean’s individual case, a professor in the law school said. The professor said it raises questions about how UB regulates pay of faculty once they downgrade in positions.

Mutua resigned as dean of the UB Law School in December of 2014 amid a lengthy legal battle with a former professor who claims Mutua wrongfully terminated him and committed perjury in the legal proceedings.

The case has wound its way through court and included testimony from law faculty professors. In December, a U.S. magistrate judge recommended dismissal of the case to U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara, who will make the final decision. Jeffrey Malkan, the former law professor suing Mutua, said Arcara listened to his and Mutua’s lawyers’ arguments on Feb. 18 and he expects Arcara to make a final decision within three months. He said Mutua did not show up to the arguments.

Mutua’s seven-year tenure as dean divided some of the school, as faculty attempted to hold a vote of no confidence in him in 2010. Then President John Simpson and then Provost Tripathi dismissed the attempt, according to emails obtained by The Spectrum in 2013.

SUNY Board of Trustees’ regulations allow 11 kinds of leaves for employees, including sick leaves, holiday leaves, vacation leaves and disability leaves. Title F leave – Mutua’s designated leave – is specified simply as “other leaves.”

Title F’s language is much less strict than sabbatical leave.

Among UB law school faculty, Mutua was widely believed to be on Title E sabbatical leave, which requires the university president to approve the “fellowships, grant-in-aid, or earned income to assist in accomplishing the purposes of their leaves” of employees. It also gives the president the power to adjust the employee’s sabbatical leave salary to reflect such income.

Title F does not require faculty to get any prior presidential approval before accepting outside income, nor does it specify that a president can lower the employees’ salary based on how much money the employee makes outside the university.

It does, however, require the university to report employees receiving any pay while on Title F leave to the SUNY chancellor. The Spectrum could not ascertain by press time if UB made such a report for Mutua.

State employees on Title F leave are required to use the time to accept assignments of limited durations with other universities, government agencies, foreign nations, private foundations, corporations and similar agencies, as “a faculty member, expert, consultant or in a similar capacity, or for other appropriate purposes consistent with the needs and interests of the university.”

Mutua earned little outside income during his time as law school dean, according to his financial disclosure statements. Mutua reported no outside income of more than $1,000 from 2009-2012 and none from 2013-2014. In 2012, he reported making outside income of $5,00-$20,000 for legal consulting for the American Bar Association. The Spectrum obtained these documents through the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Documents for 2015 disclosures were not available.

Mutua regularly wrote and still writes political columns for Kenyan newspapers and news outlets such as the Daily Nation and The Standard Digital. He also regularly gave speeches as a keynote speaker for different human rights conferences during his time as dean.

He has not claimed any salaries or stipends associated with this work, which may be volunteer.

A UB law professor said Mutua has not been on campus this academic year while on leave. The professor said Mutua has not been teaching or participating in department or administrative services such as committees, faculty meetings, student extracurricular activities, on-campus law school events or giving presentations to students or faculty about his outside work.

Mutua’s Twitter account, which has nearly 100,000 followers, indicates he lives primarily in the D.C. area and documents his travels, to places including Rome, Italy and his native Kenya, during his time on leave.

He last tweeted a photo of himself in Buffalo in October.

Mutua regularly traveled off campus during his seven years as dean as well, according to his travel vouchers from 2009-14, which The Spectrum obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.

Mutua was particularly active traveling in 2014, when he spent roughly 60 days traveling to places as close as New York City and as far as Denmark and several African countries. Most of Mutua’s trips as dean were speaking engagements at human rights conferences, as he is a well-known human rights speaker.

Tom Dinki is the editor in chief and can be reached at tom.dinki@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tomdinki.