Friday, December 28, 2007

United Way Metropolitan Atlanta Defends CEO Retirement Package

A Maureen Downey editorial in yesterday's Atlanta Journal Constitution highlights growing concerns over a $1.6 million golden parachute (plus $100K plus per year for life -- its good to be loved!) given to former United Way Metropolitan Atlanta CEO Mark O'Connell.  Here is part of the editorial:

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. On its Web site, the nonprofit has posted a long defense of the generous deal that gave former Chief Executive Mark O'Connell nearly $1.6 million in cash on top of a pension that assures him about $106,000 a year for life.

The organization's jitters are understandable. Its entire mission depends on the willingness of people to sacrifice money and time to fund good works in the community. If the United Way organization and its staff are themselves seen as unwilling to sacrifice, the organization loses credibility.

I intend to use the organization's written statement in defense of the retirement package this spring in my class on Tax Exempt Organizations.  No doubt written by counsel, the statement focuses almost entirely on the benefits derived by the organization as a result of the compensation package, asserting that the package is commensurate with other compensation packages paid to CEO's of "similar sized" organizations.  Obviously the authors are familiar with the excess benefit regulations.  It is interesting too to see how lawyers must mesh law and public relations.  An accompanying document makes assertions relating to the method by which the board agreed upon the retirement package.  It seems apparent that United Way Atlanta is taking preemptive action against an allegation of excess benefit or private inurement.  It is also engaging in an aggressive PR campaign. 


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