KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Knoxville’s top tourism official received more than $400,000 in compensation, but board members say she has earned the lucrative pay.
In the fiscal year that ended in June 2010, Gloria Ray received $405,583 as president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. WBIR-TV in Knoxville first reported her compensation last week and that she made more than executives at similar organizations in other Tennessee cities.
According to IRS documents obtained by The Knoxville News Sentinel, Ray’s compensation included a base salary of $206,040 and bonus and incentive compensation of $171,396 (http://bit.ly/xOGz9D ). Ray also said that she uses a car provided by a local Toyota dealership.
That year, the organization spent nearly 62 percent of its total expenses on employee compensation.
Other Tennessee tourism groups spend less as a percentage of total expenses, but they also have different responsibilities.
The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau spent 34 percent of its $14.5 million on employee pay during the same fiscal year. The organization’s president, Butch Spyridon, earned a total compensation of $403,743.
The Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau spent nearly 28 percent of its total expenses on compensation and its president, Robert Doak, earned $136,890.
But both Chattanooga and Nashville have different organizations that work to attract sports events to their cities, while the Knoxville tourism board has combined both functions. KTSC also manages the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on behalf of the county.
Ray said the reason why Chattanooga spends less on compensation as a percentage is because Chattanooga relies heavily on outsourcing, particularly when it comes to advertising. She said Knoxville’s tourism board does much that work in-house.
She also said that the IRS figures don’t include expenses at the hall of fame.
Ray’s compensation is negotiated by board chairman David Duncan and the contract must be approved by the board’s executive committee. Ray’s current contract runs through 2013.
Board member Chris Protzman said the board understands the sensitivity to compensation issues, but said her package has evolved to focus on pay for performance.
“We hold this staff and this individual to a very high standard of performance, and she hits it,” he said.
She is eligible for bonuses when hotel/motel tax collections exceed a certain threshold and is eligible for a bonus up to $75,000 if an economic benchmark is met on booked events in the city.
She also gets bonus payments based on Knoxville tourism coverage in regional, national and international media outlets as a result of the organization’s efforts.
Ray noted that since the tourism organization was created in 2002, the county’s hotel-motel tax collections have grown from approximately $3.8 million to a projected $5.5 million this year.
One board member, Bill Lyons, who is also the chief policy officer for Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, said he wasn’t aware of the amount of her compensation, although he said he may have missed a meeting.
“I would say the compensation is high,” Lyons said, but he declined to comment on whether it should be reduced.
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said he would like to see Ray’s compensation reduced. “I just think it’s a whole lot of money,” he said.