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Macomb County officials to debate DIA executive pay

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Elected officials in Macomb County will debate a proposal Thursday calling for the full return of bonuses and raises given to Detroit Institute of Arts executives in 2013.

On Wednesday, a finance committee of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to delay a vote on the proposal, drafted by commissioners Robert Mijac and Veronica Klinefelt.

The matter, which also called for a cap on salaries of top executives, will now go before the full board at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The move was in response to a recent DIA decision to use board-designated funds to reimburse the museum $90,000 for bonuses awarded to three tops executives in 2013, the first year the museum collected taxpayer money from a tri-county millage.

Voters in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties approved the millage in 2012, which accounts for 70 percent of the DIA’s budget.

In the draft, Mijac and Klinefelt said Macomb County employees have taken significant decreases to their compensation through dock days, sustained pay cuts and no increase in base salaries since 2007.

The repaid bonuses from 2013 — $50,000 paid to DIA director Graham Beal, $30,000 paid to chief operating officer Annmarie Erickson and $10,000 to chief financial officer Robert Bowen — were awarded as the $23 million regional tax began flowing to the museum.

Beal and Erickson were each paid $50,000 in bonuses in 2012 that Oakland County officials earlier this month demanded be returned. They threatened to withhold $11 million in funding from Oakland County.

That money has not been repaid. DIA officials said no millage money was used in that year for compensation.

The News reported the bonuses and compensation increases on Oct. 9 based on IRS documents for 2012.

That year, Beal's total compensation increased 13 percent to $513,868. Erickson saw her compensation increase 36 percent to $369,366, a number that includes both the bonus and retroactive pay that was earned in 2011 but not delivered until the contract from her promotion was finalized.

By attributing her 2012 compensation to the year in which it was earned, the DIA considers her 2012 increase to be 4 percent.

On Wednesday, the DIA held a full board of director’s meeting at the museum where three Oakland County commissioners attended after being invited by DIA chairman Gene Gargaro in an effort to quell county concerns over compensation.

Oakland County Commissioner Helaine Zack, D-Huntington Woods, attended the board meeting Wednesday and said it was a great opportunity to learn about the museum’s work.

Zack said she is satisfied with compensation reforms already offered by the DIA that state as long as the museum receives county millage funds, any future bonuses and salary increases for the director or chief operating officer must be approved by the three art authorities and come from non-public funds. Compensation decisions also will be reviewed with the art authorities before they are implemented.

“There are some thing moving forward we need to work on,” Zack said of the commission including codifying the reforms into the Oakland County Art Authority contract.

Commissioners from Wayne and Macomb were also invited but unable to attend due to other conflicts, Gargaro said.

Gargaro said Wednesday he spent time with Macomb County officials last week to discuss the compensation issue.

“I’ve really spent a lot of time there (Macomb) and I don’t know what we can do,” Gargaro said of the Macomb County proposal.

Gargaro is meeting with Wayne County officials this afternoon to discuss the matter as well.

In lieu of rescinding the raises and bonuses, the Macomb proposal asks the DIA to stop the practice of compensation through bonuses and to keep compensation increases consistent with the average increases of compensation in the communities paying the millage.

“Recognizing the primary source of funding for the DIA is received from a public millage, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners requests that the DIA Compensation Commission consider placing a cap on the salaries of top executives of the DIA to be reviewed periodically with an emphasis on compensation increases consistent with the average increases of compensation of the communities paying for the millage and, remove the practice of compensation through bonuses,” the resolution says.