In response to controversy over executive bonuses at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the museum on Friday announced new measures to provide greater transparency for the three county art authorities, and emphasizing the DIA’s veto power over compensation.
All three counties whose taxpayers support the museum — Wayne, Macomb and Oakland — have signed off on the amendments.
Among other issues, the revisions provide that if county art authorities reject proposed raises or bonuses for the DIA’s top employees, those can still be paid from a private executive-compensation fund established by the board of directors and separate from the DIA’s regular budget and revenue stream.
The changes come after last fall’s furor over $90,000 in bonuses from 2013, just as public dollars from the tri-county millage began flowing to the museum.
“Our relationship with the county art authorities is of critical importance to the DIA,” DIA Chairman Gene Gargaro said in a statement Friday. “We place great value on the support we receive from the residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties and look for every opportunity to further strengthen our relationship with the counties’ residents.”
Oakland County Art Authority Chairman Thomas Guastello, who first negotiated the revisions with the museum in March, said he was pleased with the final agreement.
“When you get $25 million a year from the public,” Guastello said, “you become a quasi-public entity. You get money, but with the obligation to report a little more. This, I think, will make everyone’s role clearer.”
The revisions also increased the number of required meetings each year between museum officials and county art authorities from one to three. The Detroit Institute of Arts agreed to print two newsletters a year for county leaders, highlighting museum events that might be of particular interest to their constituents.
At the time of the negotiations with Oakland County in March, Gargaro promised “complete transparency — that’s what this is aimed at.”
The use of private funds to boost executive compensation doesn’t bother Guastello.
The agreement calls for the DIA to “consult” with the counties regarding executive pay.
“We found out that’s pretty common with similar institutions,” he said. “They often provide that donors can get together and supplement a salary.”
That’s how the flap over the 2013 bonuses was resolved. The board paid the $90,000 entirely from privately contributed funds.