Five months later, ISU professor still being paid not to teach
Sometimes when public employees find trouble, it’s the taxpayers that lose the most.
It seems that’s the case with Idaho State University professor Thomas F. Hale, who has been receiving his nearly $70,000 annual salary for the past four years while not teaching a single class at the school. Hale was put on administrative leave in early 2007 when he was charged with a felony in Utah.
The professor blames the school for not allowing him to teach.
Hale was indicted in federal court in late 2006 after he allegedly sent a mailer containing a substance with a message that the substance could be hantavirus. The mailer went to a Utah-based bankruptcy trustee handling a case of his.
IdahoReporter.com originally wrote about the case in December, but five months later, nothing has changed. “It’s still the status quo,” said ISU spokesman Mark Levine. Hale’s court date was set for March 28, but it appears that did not happen. It is unclear when his case will go to trial.
The professor says that the government is stalling. “There’s a reason they are not pushing it and that’s because they don’t have a case,” Hale explained. “I am at retirement age. They should be leaving me alone.”
This is not the first time Hale and ISU have tangled. The school fired the professor in 1981 for what he says was “union organizing.” Hale sued the school and was reinstated to his job. ISU was also forced to pay him $100,000 in a settlement.
As for the nearly $280,000 Hale has received from taxpayers while not teaching since the case began, Levin says the professor should be producing material for the Oral History Project, a program Hale oversees at the school. “What’s he’s produced, I don’t know,” acknowledged Levin.
But Hale says that the school has frozen his $75,000 budget for the project, making it impossible for him to do any work. “They had no right to take it,” Hale said of the funding. “I have no money to buy paper.”
So what is the professor doing with his taxpayer-funded time? “I’m doing what professors do,” he explained. “I’m preparing, to the best of my abilities, to teach the 10-13 courses I am assigned.” But that's it; he does not teach, he says he simply prepares to do so.
When asked if he might resign at any point to end the conflict and save Idaho citizens some money, the professor rejected the idea. “Why would I do that?” he asked. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
It seems for now that Hale and the school will continue to remain in limbo while taxpayers continue to fund a non-teaching professor. ISU’s administrative handbook allows the school to terminate an employee if the person is convicted of a felony, but not until that point.