Smithsonian to Slash Executives' Pay

At least seventeen Smithsonian Institution executives with six-figure salaries will receive pay cuts as a result of reforms adopted by the museum complex, the Associated Press reports.

Nonprofit watchdogs and members of Congress have questioned salaries at the Smithsonian since the disclosure that former Smithsonian secretary Lawrence Small's compensation grew to nearly $916,000 in 2007. Small resigned in March of that year when it was revealed that he had charged swimming pool repairs, housekeeping, and other personal expenses to the institution. Since then, the Smithsonian has commissioned independent reviews of its governance and compensation, established a code of ethics, and made changes to its board structure. Many of Small's top deputies have resigned, and the Smithsonian board of regents decided in October to apply federal salary caps to some executives.

To blunt the impact and prevent a mass exodus of leadership, the Smithsonian will wait five years to reduce the executive salaries in question. Smithsonian CFO Alice Maroni could see the biggest reduction in pay: If the planned cuts were implemented today, Maroni would lose as much as $120,000, or 41 percent of her base salary of $293,280. Other executives could see reductions ranging from $6,000 to more than $80,000 a year. Exceptions to the federal salary cap will be granted for directors of museums and other posts that involve significant fundraising duties.

Despite the announcement, some critics aren't convinced the Smithsonian has done enough. Some, for instance, question why the institution's new chief executive, Wayne Clough, is paid more than the president of the United States. "One has to ask, what's the logic of paying Clough $500,000 and then paying the others so much less?" said Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. "I don't think that makes for very good morale among staff."

"Smithsonian to Slash Executives' Pay." Associated Press 08/29/2008.