Bernadette Gray-Little is receiving $510,041 to serve as a "special advisor" to the University of Kansas despite having stepped down as the school's chancellor nearly nine months ago.
Gray-Little has remained at KU as a special adviser since the start of the fiscal year in July, KU officials confirmed after being questioned by the Journal-World on Wednesday. The $510,041 salary is the same amount she earned during her final year as chancellor, a university spokeswoman said.
“The Kansas Board of Regents, to which the chancellor reports, set the terms for the chancellor’s departure,” KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said in an email. “Those terms state that she would serve as a special advisor to the new chancellor from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018 at the same salary she received during FY17.”
KU confirmed Gray-Little’s special adviser position within the university Wednesday after a Journal-World reporter inquired about state payroll data that included Gray-Little’s name and her role as a special adviser. The Wichita-based free market think tank Kansas Policy Institute recently published the list that included Gray-Little's name and salary.
Gray-Little's salary includes $229,518 from private sources and $280,523 from public sources.
It is unclear exactly what Gray-Little has done in her role as special adviser. When reached via telephone, she would not answer any questions but simply referred the reporter to KU or the Board of Regents.
The Board of Regents’ terms of departure for Gray-Little specified that her new role would “consist of helping the new Chancellor, at his or her request, become acquainted with the University’s unique programs, its several campuses, and other areas,” Barcomb-Peterson said, quoting Board of Regents literature.
“Chancellor Gray-Little was incredibly helpful during the leadership transition last year and continues to provide invaluable counsel to various KU administrators on a variety of topics," Barcomb-Peterson said.
Gray-Little announced in September 2016 that she would step down as chancellor after the 2016-17 school year.
A national search and interview process for KU’s next chancellor ensued, and KU Medical Center leader Douglas Girod was announced as chancellor on May 25, 2017. Girod’s first day was July 1, 2017.
Girod’s salary as KU chancellor is $550,000, according to his agreement with the Kansas Board of Regents. Private funds from KU Endowment pay for $175,000 of Girod’s salary — leaving $375,000 coming from state funds, according to the agreement.
In Gray-Little’s final interview with the Journal-World as chancellor — in May 2017, a few days before Girod’s hiring was announced — she said she did not yet have “concrete plans” that she could share about what she would do after vacating the chancellor’s office.
Gray-Little emphasized that she was not retiring.
“I’m leaving this position,” she said.
Gray-Little said she would continue to have some affiliation with KU and would remain a KU employee “for several months” but did not elaborate. She said she also would continue her work on several national higher education boards and initiatives.
“I will have no role in running the university,” she said.
Gray-Little said at that time that she did not have a retirement compensation package or any contract buyout compensation coming.
The Journal-World has reached out to the Kansas Board of Regents for comment.
— Journal-World reporter Sara Shepherd contributed to this report