University of Cumberlands Ex-President Fights for $400k Benefits Package

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A former president of the University of the Cumberlands is arguing that the school owes him retirement benefits package of nearly $400,000 per year that was promised to him by trustees but had been cut off.

James Taylor, along with his wife Dinah, sued the school for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress in federal court this week.

Taylor became president of the Williamsburg, Virginia school in 1980, remaining in the position until his retirement in 2015.  The lawsuit claims that in that time, the school saw a significant amount of growth in enrollment as well as in campus facilities and assets, writes Bill Estep for The Lexington Herald Leader.

The school’s football stadium is also named after the couple’s son who was killed in a car accident in 1991.

The university released a statement late last week saying that officials are working toward a settlement with Taylor.  The school offered him a compensation package valued at more than $150,000 per year in return for a part-time role.  However, the University said Taylor is insistent that he receive more than twice that “whether or not they do any work for the university,” according to the statement.

“The university could not agree to use student’s tuition payments and the faithful support from its donors in such an irresponsible manner,” it said in the statement.

The disagreement between Taylor and the school date back over a decade, as he felt his salary was significantly lower than that of other university presidents who were in a position of putting work into fixing a school.

The lawsuit states that university trustees had, during a closed session, unanimously voted in 2005 to name Taylor chancellor when he retired.  It went on to say that Taylor had been promised that he would continue to be paid his full salary, including benefits, for the rest of his life.

If Taylor were to die before his wife, his salary and benefits would continue to be received by her for the rest of her life, according to the deal.

The lawsuit also argued that trustees had agreed to continue to pay Dinah’s salary as well.

The deal was put into a contract in 2012.  The board approved it, and it was then reaffirmed by the board in 2015.  The lawsuit claims the package included Taylor’s salary, health insurance for both himself and his wife, and the use of a university-owned apartment in Williamsburg, as well as a car and his cell phone.  The entire deal is said to be worth $395,000 per year.

However, Taylor argues that the school has tried to pressure him into taking deals worth less and threatening to not pay anything if he did not accept the new deals.  He said he was told by UC officials if he did not take a one-year, renewable deal with a lesser salary, he would lose all of his benefits.

According to the lawsuit, the couple’s benefits were terminated after Taylor did not accept the new deal.

Their lawyer, D. Duane Cook, filed a request for an injunction to have their benefits preserved.

A private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the school offers four-year and graduate-level degrees.  There are currently about 1,400 undergraduates with a total enrollment of 6,000, including online students.

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