Rob Spear mug

Rob Spear, former athletic director, University of Idaho

Idaho's state Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting this afternoon at 3:30, with just one agenda item: To consider hiring and approving a contract for a new athletic director at the University of Idaho. Thirty minutes later, UI President Scott Green will be holding a press conference at the Idaho Water Center to announce and introduce the new AD. 

The Vandals haven’t had an athletic director for about a year. Former AD Rob Spear was fired by the state board Aug. 16, 2018 after an investigation into the handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints involving UI athletes; he'd been on paid administrative leave for more than four months prior to the firing while the matter was investigated. However, Spear still is being paid; his contract doesn’t run out until Feb. 17, 2020. He's now being paid about $94,000 a year by the university, after taking a job as executive director of the Idaho Falls Auditorium District in April that pays $100,000 a year. Under his contract, that triggered a reduction of his former state salary of $181,958 a year.

State payroll records classify Spear as still on paid administrative leave, though the university calls that an accounting quirk due to his status as a terminated employee who's still being paid through the end of his contract.

Paid administrative leave from the state has been in the spotlight since state Tax Commissioner Elliot Werk went on paid leave for a month due to a "personnel matter," then returned without explanation. An Idaho Press investigation showed paid leave is common in state government; in the 11-month period from July 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019, nearly 3,000 of Idaho's roughly 25,000 state employees received such leave, at an estimated cost of roughly $2 million. The most common reason for such leave is investigations into personnel matters, which are confidential.

Anyone interested in listening in to the state board meeting can call (877) 820-7829 and enter public participation code 9096313.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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