Executive salaries high on the charts

lblackford@herald-leader.comJune 7, 2009 

Kentucky League of Cities Executive Director Sylvia Lovely had a base salary of $307,044 for 2008, which compares with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear at $111,945 and Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry at $120,574. (Beshear gave back 10 percent because of budget constraints, and Newberry declined a raise last year for similar reasons.)

Lovely received an 8 percent increase last year after a $7,500 executive compensation study done by Lockton Companies, a St. Louis consulting group, which compared her work to executives of private insurance companies and non-profit agencies. "We found that because they compete with other insurance companies and don't use short-term incentives (bonuses), we want to make sure they're above the mark and their total compensation is competitive," said Melissa To, a unit manager for Lockton's compensation division.

Lockton also took a look at base pay for all employees of the League — for a fee of $26,000 — and found that most salaries were competitive with those at similar groups.

The League took Lockton's advice regarding Lovely when the executive board approved the annual budget, according to executive board chairwoman Connie Lawson. Lovely's salary went from $284,286 to $307,044. Her total compensation package in 2008, including a $4,000 service award and $3,900 for an automobile fringe benefit was $315,677.

By comparison, University of Kentucky President Lee Todd has a base salary of $304,010, but receives housing, bonuses and other benefits, for a compensation package worth well over $500,000.

Newberry, a member of the KLC executive board, has asked Lawson to re-evaluate League salaries based on how they compare to Kentucky municipal salaries.

"The salaries paid to several League employees greatly exceed those paid to virtually every municipal employee and elected city official in the state," Newberry wrote in a May 27 letter obtained by the Herald-Leader under the Open Records Act.

Deputy Director Neil Hackworth has a total package of $246,994, and William Hamilton, director of insurance services, makes $225,520.

Tom Prather, a former mayor of Georgetown who is still a magistrate there, is director of the NewCities Institute, a separate civic think tank attached to KLC. He makes $165,011. All four employees have cars and gas paid for by the League.

It's difficult to compare KLC with other state leagues because they are all so different. The Ohio League of Cities, for example, is only a civic lobbying organization, while the Florida League of Cities has a much larger insurance pool. North Carolina's league provides insurance but no finance programs.

None of those organizations would reveal executive director salaries. The National League of Cities also declined to release any comparative information, saying that they don't collect it.

Some tax forms are available. The Texas Municipal League, which does not offer insurance services, pays director Frank Sturzl $225,000. He did not return calls for comment.

KLC board member and Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth says the salaries are in line with the work done, although he's never heard League salaries discussed. "Sylvia has been there for more than 20 years and has taken it from a small company to a multimillion-dollar corporation," he said. "If you want good people, you have to pay them."

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