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Former B-School Dean Says He’s Owed $800K

Former Dean Tim Smunt is suing the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for setting his salary too low, wrongfully capping his retirement, and failing to give him a lucrative distinguished professorship

Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s business school broke their promises, a former dean says, and he’s asking the state to pay him nearly $800,000 to make up for having had his salary set too low.

Timothy Smunt was dean of the Lubar School of Business from 2009 to 2015; he’s currently a professor at the school whose expertise ranges from healthcare management to strategic planning and new technology investment. Smunt says in a claim that will be heard by the Wisconsin Claims Board on February 7 that the school had promised to use a survey of B-schools to set his salary but reneged and subsequently set his pay too low.

Smunt is asking for $797,381, saying he not only had his salary established wrongfully low but also wasn’t told his retirement contributions would be capped. Smunt further claims that he wasn’t nominated for a distinguished professorship for six months after having been promised a “priority recommendation.”

The school counters that there were mitigating circumstances on the professorship — there was no vacancy for Smunt to occupy, officials say — and adds that the survey was only one data point in fixing the dean’s salary. Furthermore, the school says, Smunt should have been aware that the IRS caps retirement contributions because that information is posted on the state Department of Employee Trust Funds’ website.

SMUNT’S TENURE AS DEAN USHERED IN BIG CHANGES AT LUBAR

Tim Smunt

According to his bio at the Wisconsin Lubar website, Smunt’s research and teaching focus on “a wide range of business issues, including operations productivity, healthcare management, new technology investment and other corporate finance issues, managerial accounting, leadership and strategic planning, negotiations, and international operations strategy.” His most current research topics include “The Value of Perfect Process Flexibility” and “Supply Chain Responsiveness to Capacity and Demand Shocks.” Neither Smunt nor the Lubar School responded to requests for comment.

Smunt’s bio further credits him with helming the school through an important “period of growth” and shepherding the school through a re-accreditation process with AACSB International, a process that was finally completed in July 2016. After joining the Lubar School from Wake Forest University in 2009, “He established professional strategic planning processes and worked with faculty on a number initiatives that resulted in the Lubar School achieving high levels of international recognition, including the school’s important degree programs rising for the first time into Businessweek and U.S. News & World Report rankings.” He is also credited with major revisions to the school’s long-standing BBA and MBA programs and the launch of new online certificate programs in business analytics, enterprise resource planning, and technology entrepreneurship, among other changes.

Though its full-time MBA program is unranked in the 2017 U.S. News ranking, the Lubar School’s part-time MBA is ranked 84th in the country. The full-time BA has just 12 students, while the part-time program has 400. Full-time tuition is $17,634 per year in-state; part-time tuition is $14,141 per year.

TO THE COURTS AND BACK AGAIN

Smunt’s claim with the five-member Wisconsin Claims Board follows a rebuke by the courts. In February 2016 he filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone and the UW System board of regents, but that suit was dismissed in July by a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge who said Smunt failed to follow the proper procedure for his claim. Proper procedure, the judge ruled, was to go through the state claims board.

According to reports, Smunt’s lawsuit said the university’s contribution toward his retirement should have been based on his salary, $300,000 annually until 2014 and 2015, when it rose to $306,030. Instead, he said, school officials relied on an IRS-determined maximum salary for his position of $245,000 to $265,000 annually — a difference that cost Smunt at least $31,854 in retirement funds.

Smunt’s claim about a distinguished professorship also comes down to a question of money: Being named a distinguished professor means getting an additional $84,000 per year. Wisconsin-Milwaukee did nominate him in 2009, the lawsuit said, but he was not selected.

DON’T MISS MBA PROGRAMS WITH THE MOST (AND LEAST) WOMEN and GPAs AT THE LEADING BUSINESS SCHOOLS