MONTREAL ó The Quebec government has fined Concordia University in Montreal because of one too many taxpayer-funded golden parachutes.
In a letter to the president of the university's board of directors, the education minister said too much public money has been spent on severance packages for administrators who have abruptly left the university during the past several years.
"The turnover among administrators is posing problems," Line Beauchamp wrote in the letter dated March 8.
A QMI Agency investigation revealed that seven Concordia University executives were given a total of almost $4 million in severance and termination packages over the past several years.
Judith Woodsworth, Concordia's former president who left the university in 2010 ó midway through her contract ó was given a cheque for $169,573 upon her departure. The payment didn't include the $747,045 she was awarded to terminate her contract.
Her predecessor, Claude Lajeunesse, was given $1 million when he left before his contract was over.
In the letter, Beauchamp said the government will give the university $2 million less in its 2012-13 budget.
"The financial implications of these excessive departures are feeding the concerns that citizens have over the judicial use of public funds," Beauchamp wrote. "I invite you to act with rigour and to prove that you can make moderate budget choices."
The fine has given more ammunition to Quebec student leaders, who have helped launch a massive boycott of classes to try to get the government to reverse its decision to increase tuition by $1,625.
Lex Gill, president of the Concordia Student Union, said Quebec universities want students to pay more tuition yet universities are incapable of managing the money they already have.
She said the fine amounts to a "$2-million slap on the wrist."
Gill said it doesn't address what she calls the systemic problem of universities mismanaging public funds.
Concordia spokeswoman Christine Mota said the university is reviewing the letter and will make an announcement shortly.