HUD seeks more detailed data on executive pay

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, encouraged HUD to release the data. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, encouraged HUD to release the data. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Housing and Urban Development Department will ask for more comprehensive salary data from public housing authorities near the end of this year, according to a department spokesman.

The Obama administration earlier this week announced it would extend and broaden the current congressionally mandated pay caps on the annual compensation public housing authority officials receive. After reports surfaced in 2011 of excessive compensation at some PHAs across the country, Congress imposed a $155,500 salary cap for fiscal 2012 on the amount of federal funds that can be used to pay PHA executives. HUD has decided to extend that cap and close a legislative loophole so that total cash compensation, not just base salary, falls under it.

The department collected 2010 salary data last August from public housing authorities across the country; now HUD plans to ask for more detailed information from PHAs within the next six months. “We are currently revising the request for data form to ensure it clearly illustrates the differences between salaries and other forms of compensation,” HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said in an email. “We’re specifically focused on trying to differentiate between what is federal and nonfederal funding.” PHAs can pay their executives more than the $155,500 cap using nonfederal funds if they choose.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, praised HUD for extending the pay cap, but urged the department to share more than just the aggregate data. Currently, publicly available data on HUD’s website does not list the compensation for executives at individual public housing authorities. The department did provide more detailed information upon request.

“It is my understanding that HUD has some concerns regarding the release of the compensation data, but making this data public would greatly increase transparency and might deter some bad actors,” Grassley said in a June 5 letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Brown said the department received the letter, but has not formally responded yet to Grassley.

The 2010 data, which reflects total cash compensation including bonuses, showed that 97 percent of PHA executives earned less than $155,500. The average cash compensation of a housing authority executive director was $82,299 in 2010. HUD acknowledged, however, the data also showed “outlier PHAs that pay certain employees a level of compensation that is clearly excessive.”

Renee Glover, chief executive officer of the Atlanta Housing Authority in Georgia, was the top earner among PHA executives in 2010, collecting $644,214 in total cash compensation, according to HUD data. Glover, however, disputed that figure and said much of her 2010 compensation came from deferred payments for earned compensation, including payments for unused paid vacation and unused paid sick leave. Her 2010 salary was $312,500. “It is misleading and erroneous to suggest $644,000 is an accurate representation of my annual salary,” Glover said in a statement. She earned $325,000 in 2011, which did not include a bonus or accrued vacation pay.

“Over the course of my tenure with AHA, my compensation package has been approved in public meetings by independent boards of commissioners who were appointed by three of the last four Atlanta mayors,” Glover said. “My contract has been publicly reviewed and pondered. I have never shied away from discussing my service with Atlanta Housing Authority, or my compensation.” Glover, who has been the chief executive officer of the Atlanta Housing Authority since 1994, has been credited with turning around the agency and helping to pioneer mixed-income residential developments in the city.

The executive directors of the public housing authorities in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chelsea, Mass., and Daytona Beach, Fla., rounded out the top five highest earners in 2010, according to HUD’s survey.

The federal government spends roughly $6 billion to $7 billion annually on public housing. More than 3,000 PHAs nationwide manage public housing programs.

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