Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Charity, Not

Mark O'Connell, former CEO of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, received nearly $1.6 million in cash as a pension supplement. Along the way, the nonprofit's chief executive also secured a seven-figure retirement perk for himself: nearly $1.6 million in cash.
Federal tax filings show the United Way paid the lump sum two years ago to supplement O'Connell's pension, which already promised him roughly $106,000 a year for life. In his final year, he collected about $446,700, including a car allowance and $70,200 in unused leave. His last three years' earnings approached $1.2 million, not counting the lump sum.

Keep in mind, dear reader, that our well paid Mr. O'Connell is only the CEO of the Atlanta United Way, not the national organization.

This is outrageous and should be a scandal. This is not something that happens in a vacuum. This can only occur as a result of a corporate culture that views charity as an industry where it is appropriate for executives to seek to "drive their personal wealth" as my MBA friends like to say.

Well, it is not appropriate. It should not be legal. It definitely should not be tax exempt.

I stopped supporting the United Way 20 years ago when I found out then that it's CEO was making $400,000 a year in the mid 1980's. I was making $14,000 a year as a Naval Officer and was asked to contribute, and was also directed to ask the sailors under me, who made a lot less than that, to give to the United Way. It was a contest among commands to see who would give the most. When I saw that the CEO was taking all that money, I was pretty steamed.

But over time I saw all sorts of celebrities endorsing the United Way. So I wondered if it had mended it's ways. The answer is clearly no.

The United Way should be sent on it's way.