My turn: It pays to know people in high places

I know there's a lot going on right now, so I didn't want to let the opportunity pass to mention a news story that might have flown under your radar.  Some investigative reporting out of Raleigh recently discovered that a newly hired Vice Chancellor for UNC Chapel Hill is getting handsomely rewarded for his work.

Published reports indicate Clayton Somers started as Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs in Chapel Hill in January.  He got paid a good wage…$280,000 a year.  At the time, the wage was capped by the UNC System for the newly created position.

But come June, just six months later, he not only got one but TWO raises. The first took him to just under $305,000 and the latest raise has him sitting at just over $331,000 a year.  University officials can't say that any of Somers responsibilities changed, but he did get a couple good performance reviews.

Here's what's fishy about this - Somers is a former chief of staff to the house speaker. That only leads me to believe it really does pay to know people in high places.  In this case, it pays over $300-thousand a year.  Is it any wonder we have trust issues with our elected officials?

That's my turn. Now it's your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at

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Emailed comments from viewers:

What the hell does he do to earn over $300,000 a year? It makes me want to vomit.


And we wonder why college tuition is so high! This is just outrageously wrong and stupid....


I am responding to your recent commentary regarding the administrator who has quickly achieved performance rewards in a very short time.  This topic is one that lights my fuse and evokes some thoughts.

This situation is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  In USA, more dollars are spent per student than any other country; however, there are few metrics to ascertain what is being gained from these expenditures.  To focus some on the university system as I think this organization certainly receives more than adequate funding for its purpose.

Let's consider the head of the board of governors of the university system.  That current occupant of that role is Ms. Spellings.  When she was approved, I was amazed at her compensation package.  The salary approaches $ 700K annually.  I also recall that there is a vehicle allowance, health coverage, retirement benefits.  I may be incorrect, but I seem to also recall a housing allowance.  If a person cannot supply these perks on $ 700k, it is incredible that we expect families earning a pittance of this amount to supply these same benefits for themselves.  This is where education dollars disappear--- many of them in the corridors of the administrators-- which never get to the students.  The department of education has a budget exceeding 80 billion dollars annually and this money educates no one.

We also witnessed the manipulation of the benefits system by Eric McKeithan who managed to increase his compensation the final few years which meant the computation of his retirement benefits were increased by at least $ 30K per year.

I am an alumnus of UNCW and observe similar matters there.  I have been informed by a professor at UNCW that now student housing is constructed with swimming pools for students' use.  From the amenities on the campus, it appears that the students' time outside of academics is more important than their education.

The chancellors vie for legislative funding to build a bigger university.  The main metric is size.  More students, more buildings, more $.

I recognize that this horse is already dying and thus I do not want to inflict more pain upon this animal.  This could go on ad infinitum, but the picture does come into focus.  I realize that your point was regarding the connection between this man and the house speaker.  There are lots of $ to spread around at the top.

Thanks for your attention. I always look forward to your comments on this segment.  I shall continue to see you on the television.