GLI CEO Craig Richard
GLI CEO Craig Richard

All you media relations/public relations experts out there: Greater Louisville Inc. could use some help.

Some serious help.

And this is where the PR experts at Peritus or Boxcar PR get to make a civic-minded gesture.

Because no matter what Craig Richard says, fellahs, you’re not going to get paid beyond, “Thanks.”

Yesterday afternoon, Richard sent out an email to GLI’s membership telling them that darn media has it all wrong. (The email is re-posted below in its entirety.)

His point seems somewhat valid on first perusal … Business First and WDRB reporters, when reporting on GLI”s just-released Form 990 financial report, didn’t take into consideration that while GLI ran a deficit of almost $1 million for 2012, the GLI Foundation took in $1 million, with a $533,000 surplus.

Alas, this argument likely will come back to haunt Richard as much of the foundation money is for education projects, which GLI doesn’t do anymore. Kathy Zandona, GLI vice president of education, exited in late September with other top staffers, including Tracee Trout, who had been interim CEO.

Peritus and BoxCar PR executives note — GLI executives, or at least that hardy group of survivors left at the organization, are learning a painful lesson: Public scrutiny and transparency are a bitch.

Especially for a quasi-public entity where pay was extravagant, but accomplishment modest.

Former CJ reporter Chris Otts, now at WDRB, got to the nub of what happened at GLI:

Eileen Pickett, the chamber’s former vice president of economic development, received $185,098 in total compensation from GLI and related organizations in 2012, up from $154,281 in 2011. (Pickett had been paid $172,318 in 2009 before receiving a significant cut in 2010 and 2011.)

Tracee Troutt, the chamber’s former chief administrative officer, received $184,191 in 2012, up from $151,627 in 2011. (Troutt had also taken a significant pay cut from 2009 to 2010.)

So, everyone at GLI, a Chamber of Commerce that lives off business memberships, was getting 20-percent raises while membership revenue was decreasing at about 33 percent from 2010 to 2012.

I’m going to put this matter-of-factly because it’s nothing to brag about when a tiny Internet website is the only news entity paying attention. But back in 2011, IL documented that GLI was losing membership to the point it was bound to have a major impact on finances.

In 2011, our sources gave us internal GLI documents showing GLI membership fell dramatically under former CEO Joe Reagan’s administration, from more than 3,000 to about 2,000 now, a 33-percent decline.

In late 2011, we ran a series of stories drawing on internal documents that listed more than 1,300 companies as having dropped memberships between 2009 and 2011.

We never got any response from Reagan or anyone else at GLI.

Reagan, now CEO of the St. Louis chamber of commerce, must be having a good laugh about all this.

In the old days, there was no public scrutiny of GLI.

The Courier-Journal just didn’t care (they still haven’t written word one about the implosion of the city’s key economic development organization — so much for “Watchdog Journalism”) and Business First has a business relationship with GLI.

When the big September staff cut happened, GLI officials rushed to Business First, where they counted on positive spin. And they got it.

Truth is, sometimes positive spin from your media friend just leads to greater media scrutiny by everyone else. Which seems to be what’s going on now, with Otts weighing in.

Somewhere along the line, Craig Richard, who strikes me as an authentically good guy, is going to have to man up and say, “I didn’t make this mess, but this is how I’m going fix it.”

In his email yesterday (which of course everyone immediately relayed to IL), he tells members the release of the Form 990s with GLI’s financials isn’t “new news.” He’s very much mistaken. Now all media sources finally have irrefutable proof we never had before about GLI finances.

Going forward, with Peritus or BoxCar or someone looking over his shoulder, Richard needs to convince his membership he’s through the denial stage and ready to deal with what comes next.

Here’s his letter to membership in full:

Good afternoon GLI Member,

You may have seen the media reports regarding GLI’s 2012 financial information.  These reports are the result of the release of the GLI and Greater Louisville Foundation Form 990 information from 2012. As a non-profit we are required by the IRS to provide copies of our Form 990s upon request.

As you know, this information is not new news. First, I want to assure you that the headline reporting an $890,000 deficit was taken out of context. We did advise our media contacts that in order to get an accurate picture of our organization they need to consider both 990 documents. Unfortunately they did not. As a result the reports provide a skewed assessment of the 2012 financial situation. Together the two 990s illustrate an accurate picture of the year-end results.

These reports are reacting to the financial results from 2012 and do not reflect our new organizational structure. At the end of September we acknowledged that, like most businesses, GLI has been impacted by the post-recession business dynamics. We responded accordingly by identifying efficiencies within the organization to reduce expenses while creating a structure with an increased emphasis on economic development and member services. I am confident these changes will result in a more focused, tighter operation with an increased capacity for long-term success.

The changes along with the Advantage Louisville 5-year strategic plan will allow GLI to focus on the right priorities and strategies going forward to drive job creation and economic growth in the region.

If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Onward!

Craig

Craig J. Richard, CEcD
President & CEO
Greater Louisville Inc. – the Metro Chamber of Commerce

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

Leave a Reply