Calif. School Chief May Have Double Income By Moonlighting
Sacramento, Calif.--Wilson C. Riles, California Superintendent of Instruction, probably doubled his $42,500 state salary last year by serving on corporate boards and speaking at conferences, a recent state report and additional sources suggest.
Public officials are permitted to earn outside income in California, but the extent of Mr. Riles's additional earnings, the time commitments involved, and--in one instance--the source of the income, have provoked discussion here among educators and public officials.
Mr. Riles announced his candidacy for re-election to the state chief's post a week after the release earlier this month of the report, compiled by California's Fair Political Practices Commission (fppc).
The fppc--a state-government unit--is a watchdog for conflict-of-interest problems among public officials. Its survey, covering reported income in 1981, said Mr. Riles received more than $10,000 last year as a director of the Wells Fargo Bank and more than $10,000 as a director of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, both in San Francisco, and more than $1,000, but less than $10,000 as a member of the board of trustees of the American College Testing Program (act), in Iowa City.
Mr. Riles declined to state exactly how much money he had received and how many days he had worked for these corporations during the past 12 months. "It's no one's business," he said.
Officials of the three corporations outlined their policies with regard to board members, but two of the officials declined to give specific details on how many meetings Mr. Riles attended.
A spokesman for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company said corporate directors receive a $12,000 annual retainer. In addition, they receive $500 and expenses for each board meeting they attend (14 were held last year) and $500 for each committee meeting they attend. Mr. Riles is a member of the board's audit committee. The annual pay to each board member who attends all meetings totals approximately $19,000, plus possibly several thousand more for attending committee meetings.
Wells Fargo Board members receive a $10,000 annual retainer and an additional $500, plus expenses, for attending each board meeting (13 were held in the last 12 months). In addition, directors receive $500 for each of up to eight committee meetings scheduled annually. Thus, the potential annual compensation for a board member could exceed $20,000.
A spokesman for the testing organization said Mr. Riles received $1,800 during the past 12 months for attending two meetings of the act board of trustees. Compensation for each two-day meeting is $300 per day, and an additional $300 is paid for one day of preparation for these meetings.
In addition to its widely used testing program, the spokesman said, act sells a career-planning program to schools across the nation. Five high schools in California currently buy the service.
"No Conflict of Interest"
Mr. Riles said that serving on the corporate boards "enhances my understanding of the real world and involves no conflict of interest." He said it helps young people to see a black on the boards of directors of big corporations. "I'm the only black who is on the board of directors of a bank in California," he added.
In addition to sitting on three corporate boards, Mr. Riles reported receiving "hono-raria" of $1,000 from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California for participating in a conference on the American Crisis in Teaching and Learning; $2,000 from the Georgia School Boards Association for par-ticipating in an education conference; $500 from the California Association of School Psychologists and Psychometrists for participating in the organization's 1981 convention; $1,500 from the University of Hawaii for participating in a forum; and $150 from the California School Boards Association for participating in that organization's annual joint conference with the Association of California School Administrators in San Francisco.
William F. Pierce, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said "quite a number" of school chiefs belong to boards of nonprofit and profit-making corporations, some receiving and some not receiving pay, and many receive honoraria for speaking engagements outside their home states.
He said his organization, of which Mr. Riles is president this year, has no formal policy on the issue. "It's handled at the state level,'' he added.
Mr. Pierce pointed out that Mr. Riles's regular salary of $42,500 is below the national average $45,640 for state school chiefs. New York pays its chief, who is responsible for all education in the state, $71,000. Idaho pays only $28,000 annually, the lowest in the nation.
Cap on Salaries
Mr. Riles said California placed a cap on the salaries of its constitutional officers several years ago. As a result, he added, "at least six employees" working under him in the California Department of Education take home paychecks larger than his.
In addition to his salary, Mr. Riles receives from the state a late model Lincoln sedan and the services of a full-time chauffeur/bodyguard.
Interviews with officials in six states closest to California in the size of their total enrollments disclosed that their school chiefs, either by state edict or by decision of the chief, avoid entirely or strictly limit time spent on outside paying jobs.
Representatives of all six states stressed that the complexities of running a large bureaucracy and of providing leadership in education systems plagued with problems require a state chief's full-time attention.
According to their spokesmen, the six state school chiefs surveyed follow the guidelines below.
New York: The commissioner has many outside activities in education, but receives pay for none of them; the job is considered a full-time effort. Annual salary: $71,000.
Pennsylvania: The secretary of education sits on many boards, all nonprofit. He cannot be compensated for anything other than travel expenses, and he cannot be paid an honorarium for speaking either in- or out-of-state. Annual salary: $44,000.
Texas: The commisioner receives no pay for being a member of a board of directors. No employee of the state department of education can serve on a board or in any other way for a firm that does business with Texas public schools. Annual salary: $55,000.
Illinois: The state superintendent cannot accept a post on the board of directors of any corporation and cannot accept honorariums for speaking engagements within the state. The position is specifically designated in the commissioner's contract as a "full-time job" to serve the state's 1,012 school districts. Annual salary: $69,300.
Ohio: The superintendent of public instruction does not belong to any corporate boards and receives no honorariums for speeches or other services within the state. Annual salary: $53,500.
Michigan: The superintendent of public instruction serves on no boards of directors and receives no honorariums for speeches within the state. Annual salary: $58,400.
In California, reaction to Mr. Riles's outside activities was varied.
Marian Bergeson, Republican of Newport Beach and vice chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, said, "All his energy and attention should be devoted to" his full-time job. She added that Mr. Riles's role with the American College Testing Service "appears to be improper" because the organization seeks sales to California high schools.
State Senator Alan Sieroty, Democrat of Los Angeles and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, refused to comment, but State Senator Dan O'Keefe, Republican of Santa Clara and vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that Mr. Riles's job requires full-time attention.
"He may have unusual talents," Senator O'Keefe said, "but I would like to have them devoted almost exclusively to the job the public elected him to do instead of spending possibly 40 to 45 days a year working for private interests. Being the state school chief is not a part-time job."
The Sacramento Bee, in an editorial last week noted that Mr. Riles "is the uncontested leader among the state's constitutional officers in the amount earned from outside sources." It pointed out that his involvement with act "is more likely to generate at least the appearance of a conflict of interest than a legislator's acceptance of a substantial fee for a speech to a trade group."
But Leroy Greene, Democrat of Sacramento and chairman of the State Assembly Education Committee, said Mr. Riles's activities should not be questioned. Everyone does it, he added. The time the state superintendent spends on outside activities and money he receives for them were of no importance. "What difference does it make?" he asked.