Senators critical of salary expenses at Boys & Girls Clubs of America

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Several Republican senators are questioning expenses at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a national nonprofit organization that receives millions of dollars in federal funding.

Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and John Cornyn (Tex.) asked in a letter to the group, released Friday, whether money is being spent on executive pay, travel and lobbying rather than on programs for needy children.

The umbrella organization, which receives nearly 40 percent of its revenue from the federal government, stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars more from a bill pending in the Senate. The organization posted a loss of more than $13 million, according to its 2008 tax return, the most recent one available.

"We find it hard to reconcile this loss given the amount spent on executive salaries, perks and lobbying expenses," the letter said. "We are especially concerned because it is our understanding that some independent clubs have closed or are on the cusp of closing because of a lack of funding."

Roxanne Spillett, president and chief executive of the tax-exempt organization, based in Atlanta, earned nearly $1 million in compensation in 2008. That includes a base salary of nearly $361,000, a $150,000 incentive and nearly $478,000 in benefits, expenses and contributions to a deferred retirement plan, a spokesman for the organization said in a written statement Friday.

Leaders of large nonprofits should earn competitive salaries, said Ken Berger, president and chief executive of Charity Navigator, a watchdog group.

The average compensation for executives at groups with more than $100 million dollars in annual revenue is $460,000, including deferred compensation, according to Charity Navigator.

"When you have someone who is making double that amount," Berger said, ". . . . it defies logic. It damages the public trust."

According to a statement by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, $4.3 million was spent on the travel expenses of more than 350 staff members in 2008. In a letter responding to questions raised by Coburn at a hearing in January, officials said the organization has been praised for its financial efficiency.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, one of the country's largest local affiliates, sold three of its 24 clubs and laid off about 10 percent of its staff recently.

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