Legislative bill may force Chicoine to choose

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

On Jan. 26 a bill was introduced into the Legislature that limits the ability of public university presidents and executive officers to hold additional high-paying positions.

House Bill 1116 prevents the association of university presidents and executive officers with corporations outside their institution if their primary salary exceeds more than $100,000 per year and if they would receive more than $10,000 from the corporation.

In a letter to the editor to The Collegian this summer, Sen. Frank Kloucek, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he would introduce legislation partially in response to SDSU President David Chicoine accepting a position on the Monsanto Company’s board of directors.

“President Chicoine is not the only person in the state that serves on other boards,” said Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, another one of the bill’s sponsors. “This bill is not meant for him alone.”

Students, faculty and legislative representatives expressed concern over Chicoine’s acceptance of the board position on April 15, 2009.

Monsanto, which is an agricultural company, donated $1 million for a plant breeding fellowship at SDSU in 2009. Up until April of the 2009 fiscal year, Monsanto donated a total of $222,000 in research grants.

Chicoine will be personally paid approximately $400,000 for his work with the board in 2009. In subsequent years, he will receive a $195,000 retainer.

“Monsanto’s gain is South Dakota State University’s loss,” said Kloucek in a letter to the editor he wrote to The Collegian in June 2009. “This $400,000 pay-off creates a perceived conflict of interest not only for the university president, but also for the quality of research results coming from SDSU.”

Chicoine’s salary from Monsanto would set him over the $100,000 limit if the bill passes.

“If President Chicoine received a salary of $1,000 a year to sit on Monsanto’s board, there would probably be no discussion,” Kloucek said in his letter. “That clearly is not the case here.”

In addition to Chicoine there are other university presidents and executive officers this would affect.

“There are several other presidents that serve on boards without compensation,” said Sly. “It becomes a concern of the public when the relationships with the corporations the presidents or executive officers are involved with become a conflict of interest with the university they are already affiliated with.”