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Mark Rotenberg will take post at Johns Hopkins

Mark Rotenberg
Mark Rotenberg

Mark Rotenberg, general counsel of the University of Minnesota for more than 20 years, will be leaving that post to become vice president and general counsel of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Rotenberg’s departure will be announced later today.

Rotenberg has been in the middle of some of the most important controversies that the U has faced during his long tenure, often acting as the public face of the institution, especially when the controversies had legal implications. A lot of those involved the Athletic Department, when it has been caught up in scandals or has hired and fired big-name coaches.

In addition, Rotenberg has been a guardian of the U’s special legal autonomy, which is established in the state Constitution and which complicates its relationship with the Legislature. Although the university often employs outside counsel, Rotenberg has also had hands-on involvement with its legal affairs and has personally argued cases at the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Rotenberg and his wife, Amy Rotenberg, have also been prominent in local Jewish affairs, actively and unapologetically speaking out on behalf of a pro-Israel viewpoint.

According to a recent Strib commentary by former Gov. Arne Carlson, Rotenberg was making $295,000 annually for his University work. Carlson used it as an example of what he considers "bloat" in spending at the U.

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Comments (11)

Non sequitur

That last line is there why?

Edit: Now it's not the last line but second to last. Still, why?

To the staff and faculty at Johns Hopkins:

Enjoy the ride!

That is to say, I'm not a fan of Mr. Rotenberg, and view many of the legal steps he's taken while at the U of MN to be ethically dubious.

The most recent one being the total cover-up and whitewashing of the Seroquel scandal that Susan Perry has been reporting on so diligently here at MinnPost.

At last

Kind of a relief really. I guess there wasn't an opening at Texas Tech.

I'm with Mr. Carlson

I don't know Mr. Rotenberg, nor do I have any contacts or association with The U, but I'm inclined to agree with what's implied by Mr. Carlson's assessment.

While I'm not sure "bloat" is quite the right term, I can't think of any circumstances where the chief counsel for a university should be taking home multiples of the salary of the university president.

But then, I can't think of any circumstances where the head coach of a university team — any team, any sport — should similarly be taking home multiples of the university president's salary, or be the subject of numerous fawning articles and interviews in local media outlets. The fact that such a circumstance is commonplace around the country, including here, suggests to me that the level of ethical corrosion within and among universities ought to be creating outrage among members of the public, not to mention state legislatures across the nation.

@Ray SThe U president makes

@Ray S

The U president makes a LOT more than $295K... in fact, he makes more than the president of the United States something like $600K.

To prove the point Matthew...

.....Rotenberg was paid this outrageous sum while being an integral part of virtually every misstep made by the U. He will NOT be missed.

Actually

My comment was made before an addition last comment was amended to the original piece. My questions was about the (now) second to last line/comment/paragraph.

One of the problems former

One of the problems former Gov. Carlson may have with the U's long-time general counsel is the fact that Mr. Rotenberg was an excellent attorney for the University of Minnesota. That was his job, defending the institution (not any individual within it), including defending it from disingenuous attacks like Carlson's on "bloat," and defending it against the frequent, and ignorant, efforts of the legislature to destroy the U's constitutional autonomy.

There is no "bloat" at the University, when we consider the extent of its management realm in the context of private business. When CEOs are getting upwards of $24 million a year in salary and extras, we complain about the U president's salary and benefits? There's a market for university presidents, folks, and that--not the governor's salary--is what determines pay rates. We buy that rationale for CEOs when their boards recommend salaries "among their peers," so it should be valid with university presidents.

And, maybe our governor and our other top public officials are underpaid, not the U president and vice presidents overpaid.

One other thing: Carlson never once mentions faculty salaries. But he includes them implicitly in the figures he cites as "management" salaries. This was a puff piece.

Mea culpa

Eddie H-J is correct. Mea culpa.

Sadly, my memory of what I've read is not as reliable as it once was, and after going back to find the number, I find that Eddie's number is much closer to being correct than mine. His base salary is $610,000. On that basis, I'm conflicted about Connie Sullivan's comment. I think she's correct, and it IS customary for CEO compensation committees to look at what other CEOs with similar levels of responsibility are being paid, so it makes sense for university search committees and/or compensation committees to follow the customary practice. For me the problem is that the practice is "customary." CEOs should not be getting $24 milllion (or Stephen Hemsley's $48 million at UnitedHealth), but one of the side effects of setting salary levels based on comparison with others in similar positions is that the institutions themselves may not be all that similar in terms of the financial resources available, and more important in my view, the people with the real responsibility are farther down the food chain, as it were.

University presidents used to be active scholars. Now they're boosters and fund-raisers and lobbyists. Those jobs are important, but not more important than what the university is there for in the first place, which is to educate the next generation of leaders. The president may set the tone, but in this case — and in most cases of which I'm aware — s/he (mostly he) doesn't teach any classes. Administrative work is going to meetings and signing correspondence. Not trivial, but not of the importance of actual teaching. As for "level of responsibility,” when the custom becomes established that malfeasance or criminal behavior on the part of a faculty member leads to the university president losing his job, THEN the "level of responsibility" argument begins to get some traction at my house. Until that point, and it appears to be quite a way down the road, it's a self-serving argument with little merit.

That's the viewpoint I hold regarding business executives, as well. No CEO making $24 million deserves to be paid 1,000 times more than the clerk behind a desk making $24,000. They don't work 1,000 times harder, and don't have 1,000 times the level of responsibility.

But I digress. Eddie H-J is correct, and I was wrong.

Connie-- using the fact that

Connie-- using the fact that CEOs receive even more obscene pay than university presidents (or basketball coaches) doesn't mean that all is well, we should all be quiet. CEOs are answerable to boards (i.e., other very rich people), whereas the University of MN's president is an employee of the state. Corporations exist to make money; universities exist to educate and discover (and have their teams play deep into the postseason).

There is indeed a market for university presidents, CEOs, and other very well reimbursed people. And while we can't make those forces go away, we can influence them. An income tax code that didn't max-out at 35% would be a great place to start.

The Pay of Others

The only times I can think of when someone I should be really concerned with the money someone else is making is a) if I'm a shareholder of the company or b) if that organization gets substantial money from the government, i.e. the tax-payers. The U of M obviously falls into the second category. They deserve all kinds of budgetary scrutiny and Gov Carlson would be derelict in his duties if he didn't try and provide some. The idea that we should simply ignore them because of bloat at private corporations shows a pretty basic disregard for good government principles.

I don't know anything about the quality of work that Mr Rotenberg has done, nor if he has done much better work than someone else would have at a mere $100k but it's easy to see where a good attorney can save a place like the U a boatload of money.