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Those VisitPittsburgh salaries: Another flag hoisted

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Talk about going from the ridiculous to the outrageous.

Joe McGrath, the executive chairman of VisitPittsburgh, was paid more than $386,000 in 2011. Four other top officials of the city's tourism agency were paid salaries ranging from nearly $160,000 to more than $225,000.

That, naturally, has sparked criticism from a variety of quarters. Given that these eye-popping salaries are underwritten by taxpayers, the arch of the eyebrows has been particularly pronounced.

To assuage public concerns that public money might be unnecessarily padding the pockets of public servants, VisitPittsburgh's board of directors has hired an outside consultant to study if its apparently liberal executive compensation obviously is so. The study will measure VisitPittsburgh's salaries against those of other U.S. tourism agencies.

VisitPittsburgh won't say how much Cowden Associates will be paid. But it does say the bill will force cuts to every department budget. Why won't it make public the cost of the study? The study won't be cheap, obviously.

Pardon us but we'll bet VisitPittsburgh could find the very information its says it needs an outside consultant to “study” with a far more economical methodology — a few simple Google searches, website visits and some follow-up telephone calls.

In attempting to allay concerns about excessive compensation, VisitPittsburgh has only raised another red flag.

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