Common Cause Nebraska

The Dilema: Public vs. Private

When private funds pour into public institutions, who do our officials serve?

Photo by Ben Carlisle

Private Interests and Public Officials

Common Cause Nebraska has been concerned about the role of the University of Nebraska Foundation and the supplemental funds and perks it provides to administrators and coaches. The university personnel, who are the beneficiaries, are public employees paid with tax dollars and therefore responsible to the public.

The university foundation is a private, tax-exempt entity not covered by Nebraska's disclosure laws. When private funds are used to supplement salaries and to provide special benefits to public employees, those financial arrangements need to be completely visible. It is particularly important that the Board of Regents makes the public aware of all financial packages when salary increases are being considered.

Salaries and Benefits

Kevin Abourezk, for the Lincoln Journal Star, recently asked university officials for a more complete picture of their salaries and benefits. President Milliken's package was reported as follows:

Annual Salary


Deferred compensation


Retirement supplement


Housing allowance


Expense allowance




It is our understanding that a portion of President Milliken's salary and all of the above benefits are provided by the University of Nebraska Foundation. Similar packages are provided to senior administrators and some head coaches. Benefits such as lawn care, maid service, and snow removal have been included in contract agreements along with cars and country club memberships.

Cars and Clubs

In order to provide a more complete picture Common Cause filed a public records request asking for lists of cars and club memberships. The lists indicate that the "Wheel Club" and booster clubs provide many of the automobiles. These are leased vehicles that are rotated on a regular basis. Although the university did not clarify the process, we believe the leases are donated to the foundation for tax purposes. It is not clear why one individual drives a Porsche and another drives a VW Jetta.

The club memberships are provided by the foundation and given to individuals without a clear explanation of the criteria for who receives a membership or how the clubs are selected. The list of cars and country club memberships are included.

You can see the list of cars here and the clubs here.

Left With Questions

As a result of the high cost of education and the regular increases in tuition it seems reasonable to question how foundation funds are used:

  • Do foundation donors expect their funds to go to educational expenses or administrative privileges?

  • Does the public have a right to see exactly how foundation funds are used once they reach the public university?

  • Wouldn't it be reasonable to simply publish all financial packages, including the value of benefits and perks, whenever salary increases are considered?

  • Is the integrity of the public university threatened when more private funds are accepted for personal use?

Press Contact: Jack Gould

Common Cause Nebraska, Issues Chairman