Turmoil in Allen Building, as VP with key responsibilities during the budget crunch leaves Trask's staff

Hof Milam, vice president for finance, is leaving Duke, and unusually quickly for someone with the highest level responsibility. He starts December 1st at Wake Forest as senior vp for finance and administration.

Coupled with the departure of VP Kemel Dawkins, believed to have been pushed out, this is the second turnover within six months of 4 VP's reporting to Executive Vice President Trask. This is unusual turmoil -- unhealthy turmoil -- in the key staff watching over Duke's finances during the continuing budget crunch.

Milam was particularly valuable, having experience not only with educational budgets, but with health system finance and general management as well.

The move comes just months after Trask eliminated Dawkins position (partially to save money according to the official news release), shuffled duties and gave Milam more authority.

But Milam did not pick up the swath of territory that Trask's two other VP's did -- and observers wondered why.

Milam joined Duke in 2003 and flew under the radar. The Chronicle archive has very little about him. For example he was listed as being on a panel of four administrators plus a moderator -- all white, middle aged men just like it was on plantations in the old South -- who outlined to employees -- many of them black on the lowest rungs of the pay ladder -- the prospect for layoffs and the details of incentives to get them to retire. But the Chronicle story on this briefing did not mention anything Milam said at all.

Milam was responsible for -- or took the heat for -- the elimination of a Duke financial report that had a rather cryptic title: "Summary of Unrestricted Unallocated Budget Funds." This provided some of the best insight for stakeholders interested in the university's budgeting process, and the allocation of resources. For athletics, for example, rather than wet labs in Chemistry.

And in the past few days, Milam has been in the news for suggesting there was little importance to the ten year average of returns on our endowment. When the average was riding high, he did not talk about irrelevance at all. When the average plummeted to a dangerous 6.5 percent this year, he pooh-poohed it.

Milam never responded to Fact Checker, who asked why, if the average had no significance, his office compiled it and issued a graph showing its movement each year. Or why, good year after good year, the PR department issued news releases with the ten year average in the second or third paragraph, and why the Duke Management Company, the university's investment arm, featured a graphic and explanation of the ten year average on the home page of its weak internet site.

With hypocrisy like that, it's a wonder that Brodhead did not promote him!!

Milam is returning to his alma mater -- as well as that of his parents, his wife and his two kids. Immediately before Duke, he had another stint as an administrator at Wake Forest, serving as chief operating officer and chief financial officer of an HMO affiliated with Wake Forest University's Baptist Medical Center.

With changes in IRS Form 990, Duke has not had to list Milam's salary since 2007-2008, when it was $317,500. A FC review of the salary structure at Wake Forest suggests that he may earn only marginally more.

Trask has made a temporary appointment to do Milam's work, and spouted the usual pap about a nationwide search for a replacement.