DETROIT (WWJ) - One state lawmaker is hoping the Detroit Institute of Arts will reconsider major raises given to its director and COO — calling it a misuse of taxpayer money.
Representative Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake Township) wants to see the money from a tri-county millage go into museum operations — not into the pockets of DIA management.
Documents obtained by the Detroit News show that DIA director Graham Beal's total compensation increased by 13 percent to about $514,000 in 2013, while chief operating officer and vice president Annmarie Erickson had a 36 percent bump to about $369,000.
"I remember when they were trying to get the DIA millage passed, and people were expressing that they thought that the director was making so much money then," Kowall told WWJ Newsradio 950's Rob Mason, "and that was 453 (thousand dollars), I believe — now it's $500,000. So he got a sizable raise and a bonus as well."
The increases came the same year voters in neighboring counties approved a yearly $23 million property tax millage to fund DIA operations for 10 years.
Kowall says she has always been a supporter of the DIA, but given Detroit's current circumstances, she felt blind-sided when she learned of the raises.
In 2012, voters in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties overwhelmingly supported the millage proposal which provided the DIA with $23 million in operational revenue annually to keep its doors open for the next eight years. Tri-county residents, in return, get free admission.
News of the raises comes just months after a deal was made to avoid the sale of city-owned artwork in the institute's collection as part of Detroit's bankruptcy process.
The DIA last week defended the compensation increases, saying they were based on multiple factors.
Kowall says it's not a matter of whether Erickson and Beal have done a good job or deserve the money.
"A lot of people would like to be making what they deserve — and with the economic times we're in right now and the difficulties Detroit has faced and the sacrifices that everybody has made — you know, I certainly would like to see some sacrifice on the part of the DIA officials," Kowall said.
WWJ has reached out to the DIA for comment.
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