Non-profit defends salaries, expenses

LOUISVILLE — The chairman of a Louisville-based nonprofit that runs inmate halfway houses, including one in Lexington, is standing behind decisions to spend tens of thousands of government dollars to lease luxury sports suites and pay its chief executive more than $600,000 a year.

Dismas Charities Inc. gets virtually all its revenue from the federal government and the state.

The Courier-Journal reported earlier this month the charity had spent $92,000 to lease a luxury suite at Louisville's new downtown arena and also that in 2008 it paid CEO Ray Weis, more than $600,000.

The newspaper added Sunday that Dismas also spent $45,000 for a suite at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.

James Simon Sr., chairman of the board of Dismas Charities Inc., told the newspaper he proposed leasing the suites "to show our presence in Louisville. This is our corporate headquarters. It's to put our name out to the public."

Simon, a consultant at Value City Furniture, has served as board chairman for 11 years. He said Weis works "80 to 90 hours a week" and is "worth every bit" of what he is paid, which Simon said is based in part on meeting goals for revenue and contracts.

Founded in 1964, Dismas operates 27 inmate "re-entry" facilities in 12 states, including seven in Kentucky. It has more than 600 employees, Weis said.

Spokeswomen for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, with which Dismas has 21 contracts, and the state Corrections Department, declined to comment on Dismas' expenditures. The IRS, which regulates nonprofits, also declined to comment.

The state Corrections Department has 17 contracts with Dismas Charities for 2011 worth a combined $1.2 million, according to records released by the Finance and Administration Cabinet in response to an open-records request.

The Bureau of Prisons said it paid Dismas $28.5 million last year.

In 2008, Dismas got about 99 percent of its $36.6 million budget from state and federal contracts; it received $760,945 in contributions that year.

The organization's winter 2010 newsletter cites contributions from 85 individuals and other entities, including three schools and a kindergarten class.

Weis said his compensation was set by a Chicago-based national compensation consultant, whom he declined to name, based on comparable salaries of others in similar positions.

"I think my compensation is reasonable," he said. "It took me 27 years to get where I'm at."

Dismas paid Weis more in 2008 than Louisville-based Papa John's International Inc. paid chairman and CEO John Schnatter that year ($542,082), or Republic Bancorp paid president and CEO Steve Trager ($545,089).

Dismas pays its four top officers more than $200,000 each, according to its 2008 tax report, the most recent available; its second-highest paid employee, executive vice president Jan Kempf, was paid $452,047 that year.