Oakland County commissioner seeks to block DIA raises

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

An Oakland County commissioner who opposes a compensation package for top executives at the Detroit Institute of Arts has drafted a resolution seeking support from elected county officials to block it.

Oakland County Commissioner John Scott, R-Waterford Township, said he plans to attend an 8:30 a.m. meeting of the Oakland County Art Authority Wednesday at which DIA officials will present the compensation package. As first reported by The Detroit News, it includes a $285,000 retirement severance and forgiveness of a housing loan for their now-departed director Graham Beal, as well as raises and bonuses for two top executives.

Scott said he wants to voice his concerns and frustrations over what he describes as excessive compensation offerings. Scott also said he wants all DIA board meetings to be subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act, because it receives public funds. The nonprofit holds private meetings.

Scott’s resolution states the increase in compensation “is a violation of the spirit of shared sacrifice that has been the cornerstone of preserving the Detroit Institute of Arts throughout the millage election and the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit.”

The resolution directs the Oakland County representatives appointed to the DIA governing board to oppose the compensation increases.

“Every time I turn around, Beal wants more money. Five full baths in this house? I have one full bath. Gimme a break,” Scott said.

Beal received a $155,832 housing loan to buy a 6,000-square-foot English Cotswold-style manor home in Detroit’s Palmer Woods neighborhood in 1999. The six-bedroom, five-bath home has five fireplaces, a library and a pool, and was designed by famed architect Robert Derrick, who also designed the Henry Ford Museum.

A total compensation package of $625,185 is being prepared for Beal and executives Annmarie Erickson and Robert Bowen under a plan that covers fiscal years 2014 and 2015 as well as promises in Beal’s contract, according to details being presented to suburban leaders.

Taxpayers in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, which send $23 million a year to the DIA in a regional tax, would pay only for the raises — about $49,000 — because DIA officials intend to use private donor funds for the rest.

The raises will be paid for with general operating funds, which includes the DIA regional tax millage.

The remaining compensation — the severance and housing loan for Beal, and $135,000 combined in bonuses for him and the two executives — is to be paid from a compensation fund established by the DIA, museum chairman Gene Gargaro told The News.

The DIA must inform the counties of compensation decisions before they are enacted under a new agreement with the three county art authorities. This is the first time the new terms have come into play. DIA leaders met with Macomb officials Aug. 17 and will meet with Wayne officials Sept. 14.

The agreement was hammered out after previous raises and bonuses awarded to DIA executives amid Detroit’s historic bankruptcy.

Gargaro said the amended contract does not require the art authorities to vote on or approve DIA compensation when private funds are used. He said he doesn’t anticipate any objections to the taxpayer-funded part of the compensation package because the raises are below national standards for museum executives.

Search for new director narrows

The search for a new director at the Detroit Institute of Arts has narrowed from eight to four candidates, board chairman Eugene A. Gargaro Jr. said Tuesday.

Gargaro declined to identify the final four, and would not say whether any internal candidates were on the short list.

He did confirm, however, that Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA executive director for collection strategies and information as well as head of the European Art Department, and Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Annmarie Erickson were both in the initial roster of eight.

Michael Hodges