GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Sixty University of Wisconsin employees last year received more than the $12,000 in extra academic pay allowed by the state, including some educators who pulled in more than $20,000, according to a published report.
UW System officials said some data are skewed by inconsistent record-keeping, and in other cases schools had no choice but to pay extra because teachers were pressed into duty following unexpected vacancies.
The figures for extra payments were compiled by Gannett Wisconsin Media following an open-records request.
The statute in question applies to any state employee working in two different roles. Within the UW System, the extra pay generally comes in the form of "overload" payments for academic responsibilities beyond the base workload.
"It's not an excuse, but it doesn't seem to be a widespread problem that can't be fixed with some local instruction and coaching to the employees involved," UW System spokesman David Giroux said. "No matter how small the number, however, people should have been aware of the cap and the need to avoid such situations."
Republican state Rep. Steve Nass, who chairs the state Assembly's Committee on Colleges and Universities and who is a frequent critic of the UW System, said the disclosure was yet another sign of mismanagement.
"They can't even confirm the accuracy of exactly how many people (are over the cap)," Nass said of the UW System. "It's just more reasons not to trust the university system, frankly. ... They've got the educated people that should be able to track this."
There were 90 UW employees who received exactly $12,000 in overload payments, suggesting an effort to abide by the cap. But in some cases, officials who exceeded the restriction said they did so knowingly.
UW-Oshkosh officials sometimes surpassed the limits because they needed to fill vacancies created by retirements and resignations, said Tim Danielson, the school's director of human resources.
"I'm sure there were instances where we had to makes a decision between, do we deny a student the ability to be in a course ... because of this $12,000 statutory limit, or do we keep them on track to graduate?" Danielson said.
UW-Oshkosh had 18 employees over the cap, more than any other school, according to the data. Other universities with large concentrations included UW-Whitewater (10), UW-Stout (9), UW-Superior (7), UW-Stevens Point (6) and UW-Milwaukee (5). UW-Madison had none.
Jennifer Lattis, a UW System attorney who provided the overload records, said officials discovered inconsistencies in the way overload data were entered at the various campuses. In some cases payments were found to have been improperly coded as overload, she said.
However, she still acknowledged that some individuals likely did exceed the cap.
The state statute requires the Wisconsin Department of Administration to check annually to make sure no state employee is exceeding the overpayment cap, and that anyone paid more than $12,000 must return any pay received beyond that amount.
Giroux said the UW employees who went over the cap question were due the wages they received because of work performed. He said the statute requiring repayment to the state has to be balanced with another state law requiring that all employees be paid the wages they've earned.
"I'm not aware of any cases where we have plans to go after the money from the employees who earned it, but we'll certainly look into that further," Giroux said.
Across the UW System's 26 campuses, about 3,200 full-time employees received overload payments last year. The amounts ranged from $20 to $23,000 and averaged $4,000.