VisitPittsburgh to do comparison of pay for top executives
Pittsburgh's tourism agency is rethinking how much it pays its top executives.
Leaders at VisitPittsburgh won't say how much that review will cost, but paying for an outside consultant to measure its salaries against those of other U.S. tourism agencies is cutting into every departmental budget.
“If any individual salaries are out of line, we will make adjustments,” Bill Cagney, chairman of VisitPittsburgh's board of directors, said Wednesday.
The agency is responding to criticism from some politicians, most notably Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, that it overpays executives. VisitPittsburgh must justify six-figure salaries that topped out in 2011 at $386,025 in total annual compensation to Executive Chairman Joe McGrath, who is set to retire in June after more than 22 years as its head.
Most of VisitPittsburgh's $10.2 million in annual funding comes from a portion of Allegheny County's 7 percent tax on hotel room stays.
In 2012, the hotel tax generated $8.3 million. Compensation and benefits paid to about 50 staff members accounted for about 57 percent of expenses, according to a tax filing VisitPittsburgh submitted to the IRS in 2011.
VisitPittsburgh does not list the salaries of all employees in its tax forms. It identified six of its “highest compensated” employees in the 2011 filing.
Cowden Associates Inc., based in Gateway Center, Downtown, is scheduled to complete the executive compensation study in about two months, said Connie George, VisitPittsburgh's spokeswoman.
George declined to disclose the cost of the study. She said the cost is eating into all of the agency's departmental budgets.
VisitPittsburgh conducts similar studies periodically, George said, but it is employing a different firm this time and doing it sooner than scheduled.
“We bumped it up because of all the questions,” she said.
In September, the Tribune-Review highlighted concerns from Fitzgerald and state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, about high compensation and a budget that prioritizes salaries ahead of what it spends to attract conventions and market the region.
Fitzgerald said he is pleased the tourism group is examining the salaries.
“All of us that are in public life are accountable for how we spend the public's dollars. We've obviously seen that with some of the things happening in city government right now,” Fitzgerald said, referencing a widening scandal over a secret Pittsburgh police slush fund.
“It's important the public has confidence that their dollars are being spent wisely to promote events like we're talking about today,” he said. “We want these events to come here, and we want the sales and marketing dollars that we put forward to be used strictly for that.”
Fitzgerald made the comments after a news conference at the Consol Energy Center to announce the U.S. Gymnastics Championships will be in Pittsburgh in August 2014.
Fitzgerald declined to say if he would be satisfied with the agency's salary structure if the compensation study shows it is in step with tourism groups in other cities.
Elliott Dinkin, president and CEO of Cowden Associates, said his firm compares compensation based on job functions, not titles, and tries to produce a range of salaries to show nonprofit and for-profit agencies where employees fall on a spectrum.
It will be up to VisitPittsburgh's board of directors to decide what to do with the results, he said.
If a compensation study finds executives make more than in most comparable markets, that doesn't mean a company will suddenly slash salaries.
“But they might slow down and not make any increases in base pay,” Dinkin said, speaking generally. “They're probably not going to come in and say we're going to chop your pay by 50 percent.”
Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Contempt citation sought by state against Highmark for alleged violation of deal with UPMC
- VA promotion for administrator stuns legislator
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office asked to prosecute case alleging assault of Allegheny County assistant district attorney
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- Newsmaker: Mary Barkhymer
- Prosecutors say cyanide-death defendant Ferrante tested toxin on mice to gauge effect on human
- Savvy Service Employees International Union ‘keeps light on’
- Allegheny County hires former Pittsburgh workers, leading to criticism
- Pittsburgh photo exhibit shines light on ‘Good’ work
- 12-year-old’s donated heart joins families, lets her memory live
- Pittsburgh VA director gets more time to appeal firing recommendation