Published: Feb 16, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 13, 2013 03:22 PM
The Rev. Dennis McLain and his wife Linda may well be doing the Lord’s work as chieftains of Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina, feeding and clothing the poor through its 36 retail outlets, but do they really need to dun the heavenly debit card for almost $800,000 a year?
A United Methodist Church minister, McLain earns more than $430,000 a year in salary and benefits. Linda McLain pulls down $365,000 a year.
Last I heard, there was no mother lode in Eastern North Carolina. But the McLains must know something that the rest of us don’t.
As the N&O’s Josh Shaffer reported recently, the McLains bestride a nonprofit empire with 600 workers and $63 million in assets. Dennis McLain’s admirers credit him with rescuing Durham-based GIENC from certain death 30 years ago, and in all fairness he has done an impressive job.
Yet, when I think of Dennis and Linda McLain, my mind’s eye conjures images of Jim and Tammy Bakker. Not because the McLains are poseurs who cite Scripture, as the Bakkers did – no one disputes the McLains’ stewardship of GIENC – but because of their fatted-calf salaries.
In fact, add the $400,000 a year in salaries and benefits paid to four lesser executives and, yes, we’re talking real money in GIENC’s head shed.
Defenders of the status quo reply that GIENC pays its worker bees an average of $19 an hour in salary and benefits, that the charity sells “gently used” clothing and small appliances to low-income Tar Heels at unbeatable prices, that it even grows and donates 20,000 pounds of produce a year to food banks.
And the McLains and GIENC still find time for good works in foreign lands, in accordance with Methodist doctrine.
If there is a snake in this garden, it has two heads:
• GIENC relies on donations and volunteers. Both tend to come from middle- and upper-class families that, until Shaffer’s revelations, likely had no idea of who is running the charity, or how much its top executives earn. Remember, GIENC makes its money through retail sales of donated goods.
• In 2009 and 2010, a member of the GIENC board, developer Brantley Tillman, earned $221,000 in commissions for brokering land purchases by the charity. This was an appearance of impropriety at best, suggesting an altogether too cozy relationship between a board member and the institution he was obligated to oversee.
Perhaps an argument can be made for the McLains’ joint leadership of GIENC, though it would take some straining at the bit. But that’s up to the GIENC board.
Neither Dennis McLain nor Brantley Tillman would talk to Shaffer or respond to other entreaties for comment. That’s their problem, not the newspaper’s.
But clearly, when it comes to executive compensation the GIENC board likes the way things are going – up, in this case.
Few nonprofit executives match Dennis or Linda McLain in the pay department. For one thing, there is a generally accepted expectation that church people are called to good works, not to Mammon. Or did I somehow get that backward?
I don’t know what John Wesley and the Burning Bush would say about all this, but Dennis McLain is ... still saying nothing. He’s out of the country, and I don’t mean just Eastern North Carolina.Bob Wilson lives in southwest Durham.
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