Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sun-Times Continues To Report On Extravagant Salaries Paid To Chicago Tourism Officials While Indy Media Is Mum On Visit Indy's Outrageous Executive Salaries

Choose Chicago WATCHDOGS-CST-062815-4

Advance Indiana has told you about the outrageous salaries that are being paid to Visit Indy's executives. The Chicago Sun-Times has been on the tail of Visit Indy's counterpart in Chicago since our ridiculously overpaid former CEO Donald Welsh left Indianapolis to become the head of Choose Chicago in 2013. The Sun-Times Watchdogs learn that a hefty six-figure payout was made when Choose Chicago gave the boot to its former CEO, Warren Wilkinson, to make room for Welsh, who is now one of the highest paid public officials in Chicago earning well over $580,000 a year two years ago.

Choose Chicago has an annual budget of $32 million, 87% of which it receives from taxpayer dollars, but the nonprofit has refused to release details of how it spends its money to the Sun-Times Watchdogs. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has upheld Choose Chicago's claim of secrecy regarding its massive annual budget. Welsh was hired in at $375,000 a year before his salary was pushed up more than $200,000 a year. A spokesperson for Choose Chicago defended Welsh's high pay, saying it was "commensurate with that of industry leaders in similar positions." Through other public records sources, the Sun-Times has been able to uncover large, six-figure consulting payments made to lobbyists and other politically-connected individuals. Choose Chicago's board is made up exclusively of political insiders like Chicago Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts, Gibson's restaurant owner John Colleti, the head of Chicago's chamber of commerce, Obama's former social secretary, Desiree Rogers and a cousin of former Mayor Richard Daley.

Visit Indy's has an annual budget of more than $13.6 million, which is funded mostly by government grants paid for with your tax dollars, according to its most recently-available tax return for 2013. Membership dues paid by hotels, restaurants and other businesses which directly benefit from the money Visit Indy spends promoting tourism and convention-related business pay just over $730,000 a year, or only about 5% of the revenues the nonprofit generates annually. Nearly 50% of its annual budget is used to pay salaries and payroll-related expenses for its officers and employees. It spends close to $1 million a year for its employees to travel and to attend other conventions and meetings.

In 2013, Visit Indy's CEO Leonard Hoops was paid a base salary of $475,984, plus more than $65,000 in additional compensation, providing him an annual compensation package worth more than $540,000 a year. Executive Vice President James Wallis had an annual compensation package worth more than $284,000. Other high-paid executives included: Janet Arnold ($197,696); Chris Gahl ($177,501); Mary Huggard ($157,472); Susan Townsend ($195,003); Matthew Carter ($206,392); and Dustin Arnheim ($168,124). Visit Indy's board is made up of the usual suspects of downtown elites, including the following in addition to the aforementioned executives:

  • Michael Browning
  • Ellen Saul
  • Derrick Burks
  • Jeff Belskus
  • Chris Cotterill
  • James Isch
  • Thomas Jernstedt
  • Jerry Semler
  • Dave Sibley
  • Keira Amstutz
  • Tanya Bell
  • Karen Crotchfelt
  • Michael Crowther
  • Traci Dolan
  • James Dora, Jr.
  • Robert Duncan
  • Pat Early
  • Greg Fennig
  • Rick Fuson
  • Dr. James Gladden
  • Kirk Hendrix
  • Cynthia Hoye
  • Craig Huse
  • Ann Lathrop
  • Ryan Vaughn
  • Michael Huber
  • Phillip Terry 
  • Janet Arnold
  • Pete Ward
  • Melissa Barnes
  • Barney Levengood
  • Maggie Lewis
  • Mike McQuillen
  • William McGowen
  • James Morris
  • Sherry Siewert
  • Allison Melangton
  • Dave Lawrence
  • Steve Stitle
Board members often work for organizations that receive Indy Visit dollars. Ellen Saul's consulting firm received over $30,000. The Pacers organization where James Morris is an executive received over $21,000. Exact Target, which employed Traci Dolan, received over $13,000. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Jeff Belskus worked received nearly $16,000. The presence of the Indianapolis Star's Karen Crotchfelt on Visit Indy's board helps explain why the Star, unlike its counterpart in Chicago, works to keep the inner-workings of Visit Indy under wraps. Back in the day when the Pulliams owned The Star, the newspaper took the nonprofit to court to force them to open up their records.

Visit Indy has also set up an affiliated nonprofit, Tourism Tomorrow, Inc., which has annual revenues of more than $755,000, more than 20% of which is spent on salaries and related expenses. It has a much smaller, more exclusive board made up of the following: Michael Browning; John Krauss; Robert Reynolds, Milt Thompson; Caterina Blitzer; Martha Lamkin; Brian Payne; Adam Thies; and Molly Chavers. Several Visit Indy executives, including Hoops, Wallis and Carter also serve on Tourism Tomorrow's board. 


Anonymous said...

Indianapolis is run by a coterie of the most corrupt, dirty, and deceptive Democrats and Republicans allied to bilaterally chug wildly at the hog trough of taxpayer funded high salaries, honoraria, and benefits the ordinary woman or man on the street footing the bills will never, ever see in her or his lifetime.

Look at the names Welsh lists... the names of the most ingrained ass-kissers, "go-fors' and "do anything you say-fors", and the most pathetic of political prostitutes willing to push any agenda if the salary and position can be stepping stones to more graft and oorruption.

It does not take a rocket scientist to predict this list will perpetuate itself under either Hogsett or that out of towner named Chuck Brewer.

Anonymous said...

The so called media in Indy won't ever report any negative comments about the power brokers in this town it might cause a decline in ad revenue.

Anonymous said...

Warren Wilkinson actually used to work for Indy, Visitors & Convention B, and went up to Chicago. I thought he left Chicago and came back to Indy.....not sure about that.

Anonymous said...

Had the pleasure of living all over the country and no place (and by that I mean NO PLACE) is comprised of so many ignorant conformists as Indianapolis. That's ultimately why this little game works so well here...because nobody questions anything they are told by a person in a position of authority.

I'm not sure who to blame for that. I'd like to blame TPTB but God above gave each and every one of us a brain and it's not really their fault that the average Hoosierbot chooses not to use his or hers. Children of the Corn indeed. I've had enough. Life is too good to be spent living with 40 year olds who still worry about what the cool kids are thinking, doing and tweeting. Time to move on. The average Hoosierbot deserves the leadership he/she/it has chosen. Go Colts!

Anonymous said...

What cookie jar funding are these robbers sticking their hands into?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Visit Indy's money is doled out by the Capital Improvement Board. It was getting over $9 million a year in 2013. That funding is now up to $11 million in the current budget.

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no sane reason on earth for those salaries to be so darn high. No sane reason at all. IMHO those jobs and those salaries are political payoffs. I am not saying the individuals listed do not "work" I am saying there have to be enough credential individuals out there who would be grateful to have a job and would work for less but just as effectively.

Flogger said...

Privatization via Non-Profits, keeps the secrets under wraps.

The Star has long been in-thrall of the Movers and Shakers as it used to call the high and mighty. These unelected people were treated by the Star as all knowing beings who knew best what we "proles" needed: stadiums, and subsidies for downtown. When they (Movers and Shakers) urged the spread of the candy of Corporate Welfare dollars the Star was always and is still there to provide their sanction and cover story for these dubious ventures.

The two political parties are in fact the Corporate Party. Gold$mith, Peterson, Ballard, Brewer and Hogsett are just the superficial face of the Corporate Party. The Corporate Party could care less about the 99%.

Anonymous said...

Why so many board members for visit Indy?

Anonymous said...

What is it these people actually do? Sounds like a lot of dough to book conventions. fancy dinners, lavish trips, event tickets, and outright bribes paid by these "leaders" to influence the convention organizers of the world - do they use a plush expense account, or is that supposed to be covered by their massive salaries?

Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with Flogger. In actuality, there is but One Party that has an arm that works the left side of the aisle and an arm that works the right side of the aisle. Left liberal Democrats and Establishment RINO Republicans are indistinguishable.

However, most career politicians' interests consist far more in the arena of personal gain than in gains for corporatists- think Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Politicians have the ability to shake down corporations more so than corporatists shake down career politicos. I think it's more often the case that the politicians buy off the corporations- and the shameless corporatists are more than willing to go along.

Anyone who truly researches and reads how our corrupt career Democrat and Republican politicians fund-raise non-stop off every and any issue small or large knows Democrats and Republicans are essentially money-machines whose sustenance is also the growth of its power and influence to create more wealth for themselves, damn the Republic. And the Constitutional Republic, which has been dead for decades, probably will never again exist in our lifetimes.