EDITORIAL: Hanson's heroics turned out to be a $200,000 charade

For more than four years, Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson burnished his image by forgoing an annual $30,000 retention bonus and 3.5% pay raise.

But now that the district's Board of Trustees, with Michelle Asadoorian in opposition, has awarded him $200,000 in back pay, it's evident that Hanson's ostensibly noble gesture was a charade.

Between the first time that Hanson said he was giving up the bonus and pay raise because of California's grim financial condition and Wednesday's board meeting, the superintendent never said publicly that he expected to recover the money.

The story the district told to the media and the public always cast Hanson in a heroic light: He was declining the bonus and raise. Not once did he he say that he was delaying compensation.

For example, in November 2011, with Occupy Fresno protesters calling for a Hanson pay cut, district spokeswoman Susan Bedi told The Bee: "It is important to note that Superintendent Hanson has declined raises and bonuses since 2009 for more than $120,000."

Shortly after Hanson announced he wouldn't accept his bonus and raise, he wrote a letter to district officials saying that he was "preserving (his) contractual right" to the annual bonus and raise beginning in 2010 and continuing as long as he remained on the job.

We have no quibble with that. But once 2010 rolled around, Hanson should have told the public he wanted the money.

The fact that Hanson expected to recover some, if not all, of the bonuses and raises, is indisputable. The heading on the district's agenda item says it all: "Compromise settlement and release of all claims."

After all, you can't have a settlement unless something is in dispute; you can't have a release of all claims unless a party makes a claim.

Hanson's allies in the community have vigilantly defended him against critics of the district's high dropout rates and low test scores. But there's no defense of someone who says one thing and does something else.

Voters might want to remember the board's approval of Hanson's payback. It's doubtful that any Fresnans who voted for Proposition 30 last November wanted their extra tax dollars siphoned from the classroom to Hanson's wallet.