Correction to This Article
A Jan. 31 Style article reported on a recent inspector general's review of salaries paid to senior staff members at the Smithsonian Institution from a privately funded trust fund. The fund pays the salaries of about 2,000 Smithsonian employees, not just the 90 senior staff mentioned in the inspector general's review.

Report Scrutinizes Smithsonian Salaries

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nineteen top-tier executives at the Smithsonian Institution earned more than Vice President Cheney last year and three earned more than President Bush.

That is possible because the Smithsonian has a two-tier pay system. Most of its 6,000 employees are paid through federal appropriations. But about 90 executives and top scientists are paid from money raised privately for a special trust fund. Those salaries were scrutinized in a special report issued yesterday by the Smithsonian's acting inspector general, A. Sprightley Ryan.

The report noted, "The Smithsonian paid 42 of the 90 trust executives (or 46 percent) more than the maximum basic federal pay rate of $165,200 in fiscal year 2006, and 19 of these trust executives (or 21 percent) were paid salaries greater than the $212,000 salary paid to the Vice President of the United States."

The salaries caused an uproar in the House Appropriations Committee last year. Some members of Congress argued that no one at the Smithsonian should earn more than the president: $400,000 a year.

Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small earned $884,733 in 2006, according to the report. Ned Rifkin, undersecretary for art, earned $440,000. Sheila P. Burke, deputy secretary and chief operating officer, earned $400,000. Undersecretary for Science David L. Evans is listed at $315,000.

The inspector general yesterday also released a separate review of the Smithsonian's moneymaking division. The report said the income from Smithsonian Business Ventures was "disappointing," but found that salaries in that division, though sometimes higher than the federal norm, were in line with the business world.

SBV oversees Smithsonian Magazine and museum gift shops and restaurants. SBV has also developed newer enterprises, such as the fledging cable television programming unit, a collaboration between the Smithsonian and Showtime Networks Inc.

The report said SBV CEO Gary M. Beer earned $570,317 in 2005, when SBV had revenues of $172 million. By comparison, the president of the Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. earned $788,380 while managing revenues of $93 million.

While concluding that SBV executive pay was "within the range" of similar companies, the inspector general's report faulted the division for not having tighter accounting and administrative practices.

"A small percentage of the individuals we sampled received incentive awards despite not meeting performance goals, although the total sums awarded were relatively small," the report found. It cited four examples of mangers who received bonuses without meeting goals.

Last year SBV returned $23.9 million to the Smithsonian's general, unrestricted funds.

"The dollar value of SBV's contribution to the Smithsonian is lower, in real dollars, than the amount Smithsonian businesses contributed in 1999," the report said. It concluded that the SBV target of $25.3 million in 2007 is equivalent to $20 million in 1999 dollars, but in that year businesses actually had a profit of $27.9 million. Over the same period, executive compensation has risen.

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