Life University Paid Riekeman Nearly $10 Million Dollars Since Taking Over Helm of School

News Staff
Life University Paid Riekeman Nearly $10 Million Dollars Since Taking Over Helm of School

Millions Paid Despite Repeated Failure of Grandiose Initiatives

According to publicly available records, during his tenure Guy Riekeman DC, the current Chancellor of Life University, has been paid $8,571,547.00 in salary and other benefits through June 2018. If current and future salary and benefits are consistent with the past, the total may be nearing, or over, $10 million.

These payments have been made amidst charges that Riekeman has been placing the institution at risk by engaging in initiatives and other behavior not consistent with the University mission. These include a failed curriculum restructuring, failed expansion of programs internationally, a prison education program, increasing pressure on faculty to graduate students and expansion of their clinics.

Many of these initiatives, including the creation of a "Chancellor" position for Riekeman, had been blocked by former Board Chair Deborah Pogrelis. But following a campaign to clear the Board of the "no votes" Pogrelis was replaced by Kevin Fogarty DC (a Palmer grad) and a number of these initiatives started to move forward including the failed mid town clinic, failed revival of the curricular restructuring, refinancing of the school's bond debt, undergrad housing and a planned branch campus in Italy among several other items.

LIFE recently scrapped its plans to open the branch campus in Italy after reportedly spending one million dollars on the project and blaming the CCE, the Italian government and the Italian Medical Association for its failure. It was refused a substantive change request by the CCE to open a branch campus in Hong Kong, is re-organizing its struggling downtown clinic after investing millions of dollars and dealing with complaints of widespread mold problems on the campus by students and faculty. All of this, along with its curricular and accreditation challenges, has left many questioning the school's direction, management and oversight.

Amidst Riekeman being paid over $700,000.00 a year for seven years and an average of half a million for the others, he along with current President Robert Scott, also oversaw the saddling of the school with nearly $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million) in bond refinancing debt.

The purpose of the bond refinancing debt was to build housing for its struggling undergraduate program. Life needs to grow the undergraduate program in order to boost enrollment and show its creditors that it has diversified its sources of income beyond the chiropractic program.

The refinancing of the bond debt came with the addition of another $30,000,000.00 in debt to pay for the housing, bringing the total debt to nearly $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars). According to Moody's Investors Service, they had already downgraded the bond rating to Ba3. According to Moody’s, a Ba3 indicates a “substantial credit risk” with this rating indicating the lowest end of the category.

In addition to its academic, financial, facility and governance challenges, Life was also sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for racial discrimination and retaliation. The case was settled through court annexed mediation, though according to the Federal Agency Life was accused of violating federal law by treating black employees differently because of their race and then fired them for complaining about the discrimination. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Accusations of racial discrimination had been simmering on Life's campus with one former administrative employee citing " . . . systemic and widespread favoritism, inconsistencies in our execution of policy, considerable biases, and sadly, racial disparity in the decision making and tangible employment practices such as hiring, promotions, pay, performance appraisals and terminations at this university."

Another administrator at Life in a grievance letter circulated among faculty and staff cited "favoritism and racism" and even included how the "faces" of the Board of Trustees "look the same". She went on to state: "Its like this University is in the business of using people to get what they want and then moving on once they have it."

And amidst the outrageous salary, failed initiatives and burdensome debt Riekeman has brought to the school during his tenure, he has also overseen the school's fall into an accreditation crisis due to low graduation/completion rates in its Doctor of Chiropractic Program.

The school struggled with graduation rates for several years until the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) was finally forced to place the school on the sanction of PROBATION on February 5, 2019.

Following this, the school appealed the decision and following an appeal hearing on May 14, 2019, the appeals panel issued a report to the program and the Council Chair on May 20, 2019 upholding the PROBATION sanction and affirming the action of the Council.

LIFE's latest reported completion rate for Spring of 2019 was 55.3%. Chiropractic schools are required to have an overall average two (2) year completion rate of 70%. According to faculty, LIFE's Dean - Leslie King DC, has told them that LIFE expects to have additional rates that fall below the 70% threshold before it improves.

Life has an upcoming Site Team evaluation by CCE in October to review the reasons for the probation sanction followed by a January meeting with CCE to review those findings.

Life's current President Robert Scott DC, Ph.D who was given the position when Riekeman was elevated to Chancellor, has addressed concerns that Life will lose its accreditation by stating: "This is categorically not the case!"

Ironically, the accreditation troubles come after Riekeman and his team have taken credit at every opportunity for getting Life out of its previous accreditation problems despite those problems having been resolved by his predecessor Ben DeSpain Ed.D who as President steered the school through the successful removal of accreditation concerns by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and resolution of accreditation concerns by CCE.  

Riekeman ended up at LIFE replacing DeSpain one month following his tumultuous resignation from Palmer as their Chancellor on February 6, 2004. Once DeSpain was forced out and Riekeman became President at Life Riekeman sued Palmer over his departure claiming he was owed full pay and benefits for 12 months following the termination of his contract. According to court documents, Riekeman claimed that the Palmer Board of Trustees adopted resolutions that effectively "stripped" him of the "power and authority to effectively serve as Chancellor." Riekeman told the board that if the resolutions were put into place, he would, "find the working conditions intolerable" and consider himself "constructively terminated" according to newspaper reports at the time.

The board and Riekeman acknowledged that he resigned because of resolutions passed by the board, namely the requirement for board approval of hiring, salary increases and an audit. The secretary of the board at the time said the board of trustees ordered the audit because it had concerns about "fiscal prudence." Specifically, cost overruns at a building project on Palmer's Florida campus, the expense of legal services from outside of the area, contracts for consulting services, salary increases, lax accounting controls and the commission of a sculpture in the likeness of the Riekeman family including a younger Guy Riekeman, his father (a Palmer graduate) and his daughter (who was attending Palmer at the time). The board stopped the sculpture project.

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