by: Jim Bradley Updated:
The United Way's annual fundraising campaign is in full swing, with a goal of more than $20 million.
In a Channel 9 investigation, Eyewitness News looked into the nonprofit that will receive the donations.
Eyewitness News discovered the CEO's of more than a dozen of those agencies receive six-figure salaries and he asked leaders if that is fair.
The United Way raises millions of dollars from Mecklenburg County residents and spreads it across dozens of nonprofit agencies.
Many of those agencies pay salaries to their executives that continue to raise eyebrows.
"There are always going to be people who are critical of six-figure salaries," said United Way Executive Director Jane McIntyre.
McIntyre knows better than most. She took over as executive director at the United Way after a scandal involving the million-dollar pay package given to her predecessor, Gloria Pace King.
Five years later, McIntyre continues to insist on significantly lower compensation that last year totaled $155,000. A bow, she said, to ongoing public concern about executive salaries.
IMAGES: 9 Investigates United Way, local nonprofits
"I think there is always a hangover from any controversy," said McIntyre.
An Eyewitness News investigation looked at IRS forms, called 990's, for every Mecklenburg County -nonprofit that accepts United Way funding.
Many agencies pay their leaders modest salaries.
At the Learning Collaborative, a tuition free preschool for at-risk children, the executive director is paid $49,000 a year, the leader of Mecklenburg County Senior Centers $57,000.
Roughly 18 other Mecklenburg agencies, though, pay their CEO's over $100,000 in base salary. They include United Family Services, now known as Safe Alliance, the local boy scouts and girl scouts and Goodwill of the Southern Piedmont, which last year paid it's CEO a base salary of $267,000.
But by far the biggest pay package that Eyewitness News found came from the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.
CEO Andy Calhoun's compensation including salary, bonuses and benefits totaled $426,000 last year.
That is a lot more than some Y members told Eyewitness News that they are comfortable with.
"I was thinking may $200,000 if I had to guess, but $400? That is too much for anyone," said YMCA member Chelsea Carpenter.
But not according to those who set Calhoun's salary.
"Andy would be over the median, but appropriately over the median in our mind," said YMCA Board President Barnes Hauptfuhrer.
He said Calhoun's 40 years of experience and the success of Charlotte's Y outweigh how the public might perceive his $400,000 package.
"You are always going to be sensitive, but not sensitive in a way that would not be substantively fair," said Hauptfuhrer.
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In addition, the U said none of the $548,000 it accepts in United Way funding goes toward salaries, but instead nearly all of it goes toward reading programs for at-risk children.
Still, charity watchdog Daniel Borochoff told Eyewitness News he believes $400,000 for any nonprofit CEO should raise questions.
"Is there a need to pay that kind of compensation? Maybe there is not, maybe the charity could save $100,000 or two and use that for their programs," he said.
For all of the nonprofits funded with United Way dollars, McIntyre said executive party will continue to be a lightning rod.
"I think that public perception, as we talked about, is reality. And I think each organization, each board has to deal with that," said McIntyre.
She said she can't say how much funding will go to the Y or any other agency moving forward -- that will depend on how much money is raised in the United Way's annual campaign.
The campaign is going on now and ends in February.
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