I-Team: Higher Ed Commissioner Gets Free Ride At Taxpayer’s Expense

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – The cost of someone else’s pricey car plus gas and tolls, all coming out of your wallet. They’re approved perks for one of the state’s highest paid bureaucrats.

Our cameras capture a parking attendant helping Richard Freeland into a state car outside his two million dollar plus Back Bay home. Freeland is the Commissioner of Higher Education for the state. He makes a hefty $206,000 salary plus the I-Team has learned taxpayers pick up the tab for the lease on his Chevy Hybrid, and the cost of gas and tolls.

WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports

Freeland uses the car to visit colleges and to attend department-related meetings across the state but we discovered taxpayers are also paying for his personal rides. The I-Team found the commissioner frequently driving to the Cape and out of state, gassing up on your dime. When asked if he thought it was excessive Freeland replied, “I think that’s standard in our industry.”

The commissioner says THIS is standard: $689 a month for a lease on a car plus hundreds on fuel and Fast Lane charges, totaling almost $11,000 a year. The records show fill-ups in Falmouth on the weekends and tolls and gas heading to Connecticut where his wife is President of a state university.

Barbara Anderson, head of the watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation, says with the price of tuition at public colleges skyrocketing and budgets getting slashed an approved perk like this is over the top. “He certainly doesn’t need a car for any emergency travel, this man should not have a car at all, it shouldn’t be part of the package. If I were a parent of a kid in college or if I were one of the students taking out loans myself I would certainly be sick about it,” Anderson said.

Freeland said, “It’s standard practice in higher education for college presidents and executives to have cars as part of their package. We just hired four new college presidents and every one of them has a car.”

We showed the bills to Kristin Sullivan, a former employee under Freeland, who says her job was eliminated due to budget cuts while she was out on family leave after the death of her newborn baby. Sullivan is suing the department. She added, “I can see for business reasons to use a car in the fleet but to get whatever car you want, a hybrid and have the taxpayers pay for that?”

Having a state car for personal use IS NOT the standard for the state’s other education commissioner, Mitchell Chester. Chester heads up the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Chester doesn’t use the state car to go to the grocery store or any personal use.

Freeland said, “What I want taxpayers to know is that college presidents, myself as well as others who earn these salaries work very hard for the state of Massachusetts.”

A spokesperson for the department tells us it’s been a longstanding policy by the Board of Higher Education to provide the Commissioner of the Department the use of a vehicle. The intent of the policy is to offer comparable benefits to attract and maintain diverse and highly qualified candidates to fill the position.

  • George Bush

    Time to kill pork like this. Also time to get rid outrageous pensions for state workers including police, fireman, and even teachers that make a pension of 80% of their pay for life after only 20 years.

    • blackbear1

      You need to do some research before opening your mouth. I taught for 30 years before recieveing a pension benefit of 80%. Where did you get 20 years?? The other factor in retiring is your age. If anyone wishes to retire early, the scale slides backwards rapidly. If one wishes to buy out remaining years, it is expensive..

    • Italo

      Adjunct, or part-time, instructors, make up sometimes the greater of half of the faculty body at most public colleges, to fill in growing numbers of students-demanded course sections in evenings and on weekends. Not all faculty are full-time faculty, and not due to any choice or privilege. Many adjuncts pull together some sort of meager contract-set salaries by a combination of part-time jobs and adjuncting at many different schools in the system. They do not get pensions, let alone pensions for life, nor health benefits. Go back to retirement or read up on your facts before posting, Mr. Bush! :)

  • Bruce

    He says he works very hard for his $206,000 salary including the car perks. I work very hard for my 35k a year and pay my own car expenses. For his pay he should be working his a** off!!!!! which I honeslty. Frteakin’ hacks!!

  • Bruce

    * which I honestly doubt….

  • Dave

    In a state with more world-class universities than most countries possess, does anyone REALLY think we need Richard Freeland or any other “diverse and well qualified” freeloaders?

  • Corbster

    I am one of those parents with two kids in college and yes… I am very sick about this. We all should be. This guy is freeloading on us “the taxpayers”! It’s time to get rid of this attitude and especially hacks like Freeland! If I tried to charge my personal expenses to my employer I would be fired! Freeland… you earn $206,000 a year… “SPEND YOUR OWN DIME WHEN IT’S ON YOUR OWN TIME!”

  • Xenos

    Nice to see Freeland has taken his smug and self serving demeanor toward Northeastern students, and the mooching of their tuition money, and applied it to the taxpayers of Massachusetts. I graduated and thought I had been done with this jackanape mooching off of my friends and I, but I guess he’s moved onto mooching off of everyone in Mass on an entire state level.

    Maybe next he’s going to cross over into the parks service and start tossing tax dollars for moving trees and redoing landscaping every year. That seemed like one of many tuition flushes around NU. The guy always seemed to love spending big bucks on the facade and not the actual mechanism of higher education or the students struggling in the college.

  • Eric

    We public employees work very hard for you iggnorant people leave us alone.

  • Jeana

    Please raise our taxes again so we can pay for these people Thank you

  • M.C.

    Oh no, not a chevy hybrid. The man is tantamount to the CEO of a company. The salary is not exorbitant. I’ll reserve my outrage for those making far more money than this, getting millions of dollars in stock options and bonuses while they manipulate the cost of oil to feed their greed, find loopholes to avoid tneir company paying any federal income taxes and get subsidies from our tax dollars.

    • taxpayer

      its the State not a Fortune 500 company…and he is far from a CEO he is also collecting a pension from Northeastern… Do you have a 698.00 per month lease on a car? Get real..

  • P

    Give him a choice,give up the car or give up the job.

    • ELaw

      Yeah… the Mass. FY2012 budget is ~30.5 billion dollars. This guy’s car is costing 19 thousand dollars a year. That’s about .000063% of the budget.

      Okay so on average, MA residents pay $5,316 per capita per year in taxes. 5,316 times .000063% is 1/3 of a cent per person. Quick, take this guy’s car away and WE’LL ALL BE RICH!!!!

      • petem


  • geri


  • ELaw

    This guy occupies a position *above* the presidents of the state universities, and is getting $217K/year in compensation per this article.

    The median compensation for private university presidents in a 2009 study was just under $384,000 or more than 1.5X what this guys is making.

    I think what we have here is a giant red herring.

  • JustMatt

    This article makes me sick. Anyone making that kind of salary should be paying for their own damned vehicle and gas like any other hard working citizen does. If it is not reimbursed by the state, mileage and fuel can be deducted as a business expense come tax filing time… Why is it no one in political office in this state can stand up and say “we are going to cut any and all special perks” is beyond me – bunch of spineless pinheads…

  • work to pay student loans

    Why would this guy make more than the Governor who makes $147,000

  • Irish Jedi

    I teach in an elementary school and work twice as hard as this guy. Does he take home work every night to correct, including weekends? Where is my free car? Education always gets screwed when it comes to finances.

  • dave

    Don’t expect much to change. we live in a country where state and federal employees have become the entitlement class. Those who live off the public dole expect more for their services and care not what impact and perception such will have on the people.

    The state needs to start cutting budgets and here is a perfect place to start. I heard on this report that there are several that receive this perk. I suggest they all lose their cars. I would also request full accountability of gas charges made to insure the taxpayers are not paying for the personal use of gas from a state employee making over $200K.

  • Ed Keenan

    Sharon TM gets Prius, the Police chief an Edge anf Fire chief a Chevy SUV and are 3 of the top paid employees in Sharon.BUT an $11,000 lease for a CHEVY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • dan

    i keep trying to tell you people…this is massachusetts [or perkachusetts] this has been going on for years and years..and one does anything about.it WHY, you ask. because everyone wants to get reelected to protect there cronies…don’t upset the apple cart. talk about a waste of money….you have 4 dpw workers on the side of the road…1 doing the work while others look on

  • dan


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