Chris Mondics, Inquirer Trenton Bureau

TRENTON – Rutgers University president Robert Barchi inadvertently misspoke Thursday afternoon when he told members of the Assembly Budget Committee that he would not sign off on a severance payment for ousted basketball coach Mike Rice, a university official said Friday.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi (Mel Evans/AP)
Rutgers President Robert Barchi (Mel Evans/AP)
Several hours later, the university issued a statement saying it would pay Rice $475,000 as part of a separation agreement. University officials now say Barchi meant that he would never agree to higher settlement figures that reportedly had been under discussion with Rice.

Barchi was questioned Thursday by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., Mercer), who sought confirmation that there would be no severance payment to Rice following his discharge.

“That is my position as a nonlawyer, but that is also why I have a new general counsel,” Barchi testified. “Personally, having reviewed what I reviewed, I am going to be pretty hard to budge off of that.”

The turnabout caused puzzlement among some members of the Legislature, who wondered whether Barchi had full command of the issues surrounding Rice’s termination.

“I guess it speaks to what the president does or does not know is happening at his school,” Watson Coleman said Friday. “I don’t believe he intentionally tried to deceive me. I thought he was quite open and committed to what he was saying, so what I guess I don’t understand is how he so firmly believed one thing while another thing was actually happening.”


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