Romei Responds to Salary Questions

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In the council chambers at College Station City Hall, budget storms have been brewing, with accusations of a lack of transparency, issues of where money is being spent. And many of them surround the Arts Council and its director, P. David Romei.

"It's frustrating because every time a question is raised, we answer it, and then there are three more," Romei said.

And last week, things came to a head, as the debate over funding for the year reached a boiling point. Much of the heat surrounded the salary of Romei, who in the meeting claimed it to be $96,000, a claim he repeated to News 3.

"I earn $96,000 a year as a salary," he said. "We said that at the council, and I said I would produce a W-2 to prove that, and I have done so."

Romei's W-2, which he showed News 3, says he receives $8,000 each month, or $96,000-a-year.

The Arts Council operates as a non-profit organization, which means each year it must file a Form 990 with the IRS. The document shows expenditures, income, and salaries. In the council's 2003 Form 990, obtained by News 3, Romei's compensation is listed as over $128,000, a total which he says includes benefits.

"If they had asked me my total compensation package, I would have given that," Romei said, "but that's not what they asked."

But some members of the city council have raised questions about the amount Dr. Romei receives.

"We have, basically, a director of a non-profit agency with two employees who reports a salary of $128,000," Ron Gay questioned, believing it may be too high for the job.

"When I was hired, I was paid $33,000-a-year seven years ago," Romei said. "Over the years, the council has increased six-fold in it's value, and my salary three-fold. And that's how it happened."

Over the past three years, Romei's compensation has increased from $66,000 to $114,000 to $128,000.

Those numbers are according to the amended forms. The Arts Council was forced to refile their 990s because their auditor did not include Romei's salary in the originals.

"They made a mistake," Romei said. "Their representative admitted to that mistake. Did it embarrass me and the arts council? Yes it did, but we're all human, and I'm not going to leave that firm."

"From this point forward, we're going to be looking with very critical eyes on the reports from the Arts Council and make sure they are reporting everything as they should be," Gay said.

In order to keep better tabs on the Arts Council and all other non-profits, the city council will review all mandatory quarterly reports before awarding any funding.

A quick sampling of other salaries for local non-profit leaders shows a range of $67,000-a-year for the director of the Boys and Girls Club to $46,000-a-year for the head of the United Way.