Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Amid struggles, arts center chief got $1.2m bonus
By Geoff Edgers, Globe Staff July 31, 2007
Not long before the Citi Performing Arts Center decided to make drastic cuts to its popular summer production of Shakespeare on the Boston Common, its board agreed to pay president and CEO Josiah Spaulding Jr., a $1.265 million bonus.
That payment came on top of Spaulding's annual compensation of $409,000, plus $23,135 in benefits. Spaulding's salary alone already makes him one of the highest-paid leaders of a performing arts center in the country.
"Spaulding's salary seems extraordinarily high compared to the activity level at the [Center]," said Richard Johnson, former chief financial officer of Boston Ballet and current CFO of Washington National Opera. "It seems to be entirely out of scale with what that organization does."
Spaulding has presided over five straight years of budget deficits, cuts to programming, and a dramatic drop in performances at the Wang and Shubert theaters, which the Citi Center operates. The decision to slash the Shakespeare production that ended on Sunday -- the budget was sliced in half, to $481,027, and the free production's run from three weeks to one -- has brought renewed criticism of Spaulding and the Citi Center.
The Globe examined Citi Center documents recently filed with the Internal Revenue Service and provided by the center, and conducted interviews about the organization's practices. Along with details about Spaulding's compensation, the examination found that the organization has installed Spaulding's wife as its website manager, and employed companies either owned by or managed by some of the group's trustees.
GLOBE GRAPHIC: Leadership pay at leading arts organizations
Citi officials sat down for a four-plus hour interview on July 10, but in recent weeks have declined to answer questions about the operation of the center.
In the interview, Spaulding confirmed that he had gotten a bonus from the Citi board. But he pointed out that, because of wider cutbacks, he volunteered to take a $100,000 pay cut. His salary declined from $504,000 in the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2005, to $409,000 for the fiscal year that ended in 2006.
"I wanted to contribute what I could," said Spaulding.
"It was viewed as a very responsible thing for Joe to do that," said board chairman John William Poduska Sr.
There are other performing arts center leaders who are paid more than Spaulding. But they preside over centers with operations, in some cases, nearly 20 times larger than that of the Citi Center. According to the most recent records on file, Michael Kaiser of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., earns $1,029,691 a year. The Kennedy Center has a $141 million budget, meaning Kaiser's salary is 0.7 percent of the organization's budget.
The Citi Center's budget for fiscal year 2006 was $6.3 million. That makes Spaulding's salary 6.5 percent of the organization's budget. Spaulding is also paid a higher percentage of his organization's operating budget than leaders of the premiere performing arts centers in Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, New Jersey, and Cleveland.
The son of a former Republican State Committee chairman who founded the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Josiah Spaulding Jr. was hired by the Wang Center in 1987 to serve as general manager. A year later, he was named president. He is credited with reviving the once run-down hall, and making it one of Boston's most successful arts centers during the 1990s.
Spaulding's bonus was actually set in motion in 2001, when the then-Wang Center's trustees created what they called a "retention program . . . to maintain continuity of key positions within the organization," according to documents filed with the IRS. At the time, the center was coming off several years of surpluses.
In 2005, after announcing they had extended Spaulding's contract until 2008, center trustees said that Spaulding would be eligible on May 31, 2006, for a $1 million bonus for contract completion. In fact, the total was $1.265 million, the organization's government filing stated. The center declined to say when the payment was made, and where it came from the budget.
The document did not name Spaulding as the beneficiary of the "retention program." But Lynne Kortenhaus, the trustee serving as spokesperson, confirmed the bonus in a July 12 e-mail. Kortenhaus declined to say whether any other center employees were made part of the retention program.
In a phone interview on July 18, board chairman Poduska said the bonus was created to keep Spaulding at the center. "Was it justified or not? Boy, I'll tell you it was," he said. "Joe was being courted by everyone under the sun. . . . He stayed and did a heck of a job."
Poduska said he did not know specifically what other organizations had offered positions to Spaulding.
In the latest fiscal year for which figures are available, which ended May 31, 2006, the Citi Center had a $2.7 million deficit, according to figures provided by chief financial officer Peter D. Fifield.
For fiscal 2007, Fifield projects, the center will have a narrower, $354,716 deficit, largely because of severe programming cuts and a $1.3 million infusion from New York-based Citigroup, which purchased naming rights for the institution last year.
The former Wang Center has struggled in recent years due to increased competition, which has caused difficulty in finding profitable touring shows to fill its theaters. To reduce potential losses, the center cut the number of shows it presents. Over the last year, the Wang Theatre, Citi Center's main venue, held 131 performances, a Globe examination of performance records supplied by the center has found. The theater has been open for business only a third of available nights. This is down from the 96 percent rate that Spaulding touted throughout the 1990s.
Citi Center's struggles make Spaulding's bonus questionable, said Marcus S. Owens, the former head of the IRS's exempt organizations division who is now practicing law with the Washington, D.C., office of Caplin & Drysdale.
"Any compensation at these levels is one that would undoubtedly raise eyebrows," said Owens. "Completing one's contract doesn't sound like extraordinary performance. It sounds like expected performance. Bonuses typically award extraordinary performance."
Trent Stamp, president of the New Jersey-based nonprofit watchdog group Charity Navigator, criticized not just the bonus but the way it was reported.
"At best, they're trying to be cute," he said. "At worst, they're being evasive. If this is a bonus for one particular person, why not say that? And the reason they won't say that is because people will be outraged."
Charity experts also raised questions about the hiring of Spaulding's wife, Joyce Spinney, for a key position.
Spinney is Citi Center's website manager, the center confirmed July 12. The center declined to provide her salary, nor would it discuss the process that led to her hiring. The organization is not required to list her status on government filings, but charity experts say the center should do so in the spirit of transparency, and to remove the perception that Spinney's relationship with Spaulding led to her position.
Spinney was director of theater services at the Wang when she and Spaulding were married in 1998. The couple have homes in Charlestown and Hobe Sound, Fla., and a 42-acre property in Vinalhaven, Maine, according to property records.
Center leaders also declined to discuss the hiring of Kortenhaus Communications, which is operated by trustee Kortenhaus. The center disclosed the hiring of Kortenhaus in its most recent IRS filing.
While neither hiring is illegal, charity experts say that a nonprofit board should explain how the insider hired provides a special service, or special price, to avoid the appearance that the person or firm received an unfair advantage.
"Certainly, hiring a relative or a trustee is an area where there needs to be great care taken to make sure it's the right thing for the charity," said Richard Allen, a Boston attorney who was chief of the state attorney general's Division of Public Charities from 1987 through 1999.
The Citi Center paid Kortenhaus Communications $43,109 for public-relations work for the fiscal year that ended in May 2006, according to the same IRS filings. In addition, the center paid DLA Piper $99,441 for legal services during the same fiscal year. Elliot Surkin, a managing partner at the firm, is a Citi Center trustee.
Surkin, Kortenhaus, and the center's leaders declined to answer questions about payments to the firms, though Kortenhaus remains the public-relations person.
Following the July 10 interview, Kortenhaus asked the Globe to submit any further questions via e-mail.
After receiving a list of 35 questions on July 25, she and the other Citi officials declined to answer any of them.
Instead, Poduska sent a statement that read, in part:
"As is common practice in both profit and nonprofit organizations, we do not comment on internal operations, personnel issues or proprietary information on employees, outside vendors or consultants beyond what is required by law. . . . We have complete confidence and fully support the institution's senior management team and the leadership of its President & CEO, Josiah Spaulding, Jr."
Geoff Edgers can be reached at email@example.com. For more on the arts, visit boston.com/ae/ theater_arts/exhibitionist.
Now read about other executives...
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Fax : +1 800 CHA MBER (242-6237)
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
I have picked-up courage and trust to forward this letter with divine confidence that you are a reliable and honest person who will be capable to handle this important business proposal believing also that you will never let me down either now or in the future. I am Matt Orchestra a private audio consultant with the Big Music Festival. There is a world premiere from 1997 and since 1998 nobody has performed this work, it has been dormant thereafter.
After going through mp3s and cds, I discovered that if I do not remit this score out urgently it would be forfeited as an unserviceable / dormant piece. The composer of this work was the late Dr. Norbert Lionel Hamden Berlioz El Captain, a serialist, he was an associate concertmaster at Kruger Gold Chamber Players, a waiter by profession, and he died 2003 in a plane crash. No one is believed to have any knowledge or details of these scores since they remained dormant after his death.
From my findings during auditioning at the end of last season, the deceased did not leave a will and no indication of a next of kin and as such has no beneficiary and my investigation proved to me last employers' does not have knowledge of these scores which is total sum of nineteen ballets, symphonies and piano works.
I wish to transfer these scores into a safe foreign program or series. I am contacting you based on the fact that you are a musician because the tuning of this score will only be approved for performance to a 20th century specialist. I know that this proposal will come to you as a surprise as we don't have fore knowledge of each other. I therefore implore that you treat this as important as can be to enable us achieve the performance of the scores.
However, I got your contact from a trade consultant here at the Festival, though I did not disclose the purpose of my seeking for a second performance to the consultant. I have involved a very senior official in the programming department of my establishment, and we have agreed that after the score selection into your designated series, you shall be entitled to 50% more attendance.
All necessary precautions have been taken to ensure a risk free situation on the side of both parties. Please note that this deal can only take place on the following conditions:
1. You will provide the arts series/program and other relevant particulars information for easy and onward performance of the scores.
2. Absolute tuning and sincerity will be required and guaranteed, considering our positions in the festival.
3. Assurance that our recording will be released to us in good faith when these scores finally gets onto your program.
From my estimates, this transaction will be within 10 rehearsal days as soon as we hear from you. Please treat with utmost confidentiality.
Expecting your immediate response.
Mr. Matt Orchestra
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Violin legend Midori has packed the Mt. Gretna Playhouse for her 7:30 p.m. concert this Sunday, July 22. There’s not a seat left!
A limited number of Standing Room Only tickets for this concert will go on sale at 3 p.m. on the day of the event. For more information, call 717-361-1508.
A pre-concert discussion of the evening’s music will be led by WITF’s afternoon classical music host, John Clare, at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The company was exquisite, the food plentiful and tasty, and the wine numerous and succulent! Here are the bottles we enjoyed:
2000 Vieux Télégraph Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau (France)
2003 Domaine la Barroche Chateauneuf-du-Pape (France)
2002 Finca Sandoval (93% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre) (Spain)
2003 Arietta Variation One (60% Merlot, 40% Syrah) (California)
2003 Clarendon Hills Grenache Old Vines Romas Vineyard (Australia)
2003 Clarendon Hills Syrah Liandra Vineyard (Australia)
It's hard to name a favorite, although the Finca and Arietta were superb and our host, an amazing composer and brilliant man, had a "bad" bottle of Clarendon Grenache, so it would have ended the supper, had it been in top shape.
Afterwards, we joined our host at his apartment for cigars and scotch.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
Let's go back to last month's Next Generation Festival at Millersville University:
They played Beethoven, Brahms and Franck. I was less than impressed with violinist Ben Breen, who has the fine art of making a bad face and grimacing, even when he isn't playing out of tune. The balances were hard to make out clearly, other than the piano, which was bad for the wonderful violist and cellist, but not so much for Ben.
Juliette Kang was stunning in the Franck Violin Sonata. Definitely made the evening hearing her. I would have rather heard something new though...while it was fine chamber music, something from the 20th or 21st century would have been fitting, especially with players of Juliette and Awadagin's musical capabilities.
I also caught the last of the Notable Women Festival with the Orchestra of St. Luke's Chamber Players, curated by Joan Tower. It was an awesome concert, not as far out as I thought it might be; and I really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to interviewing Julia Wolf, who's string quartet was quite stunning. I also enjoyed meeting Joan LaBarbara and hearing her solo oboe with tape piece will not be soon forgotten.
Hmmm. I forogt that during the Piano Event with Reif Snyders that the Berenstein Bears
were at work, and I posed with them - as a joke for my friends Stu and Julia (who's names you can read on the decorated plates the volunteers made.) Too funny.
Here's where I spend my weekdays from 12 to 3pm.
I felt very good and renewed my artistic spirit. Nice to have met director Ken Pool, as well as Alexander Bernstein.
From Berenstein to the Leonard Bernstein Center and the leadership institute that Gettysburg College held a few weeks ago - wow! I felt like I was hugged by the arts. I could only attend one day, but it was well worth it. Brilliant minds, great arts and seminars.
So that is part of what my June was like, just been busy. More soon on my DC trip last weekend!