Another Year, Another Raise for Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman

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Brian Zimmerman - @THECITYCLUB
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Just like every year, Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman will receive a raise.

His pay increase for 2017 will likely be 3.95 percent ($8,700), the maximum annual amount prescribed in his three-year contract. That raise will bring his total compensation to 228,700. The increase this year comes on the heels of a substantial 19-percent increase last year, a raise that required separate board authorization.

Cleveland.com's Mark Naymik reported the news this week, writing the story that has become (for Scene, anyway) a glum annual ritual. Naymik noted, as we have, that Zimmerman also receives a generous benefits package and the use of a vehicle.

Naymik's piece has already garnered more than 1,000 comments on cleveland.com.  As usual, the public sentiment appears to be split: many resent their levy dollars padding the salary of man who is already one of the most handsomely paid public officials in the state, one who makes far more than every United States Governor. Others cite the success of the Metroparks under Zimmerman's leadership and contend that they'd pay even more for a man of his talents, a man who just received the "Professional of the Year" award from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

Cleveland.com's VP of Content Chris Quinn addressed the issue on WCPN's Reporters' Roundtable Friday morning, echoing Naymik and saying that, apart from the staggering numbers, Zimmerman and the Metroparks "abhor publicity." (Negative publicity, that is.)

"He could make the situation a lot better by talking about it in the open," Quinn said (paraphrasing), "but he refuses to."

Dan Shingler from Crain's offered the opposing view. He said that in the world of business, Zimmerman's $220,000 salary wouldn't seem outrageous at all. And his salary is a pittance compared to the the eye-popping paychecks of head football and basketball coaches at some state universities. But Shingler did say that the Metroparks have made the situation worse by dropping additional money on crisis communications consultants (on which Scene reported) to "blunt the impact" of the news.

Zimmerman's 3.95 percent raise this year is automatic. That is, it requires no board action and doesn't have to be reported or discussed in their agenda at all. When Quinn suggested Friday that the discussion of Zimmerman's raise had been "postponed" by the board, due at least in part to Naymik's reporting, that was incorrect, according to the Metroparks. A spokesperson confirmed Friday that there's no action to postpone.

The Board of Commissioners are presumed to have discussed Zimmerman's compensation in a private executive session at their meeting yesterday — see page two of the agenda — but all they would have discussed is whether or not to reduce the raise from the maximum 3.95 percent. And as Naymik noted, that's unlikely.

As ever, we'll continue to heed Zimmerman's advice, when he invited a City Club audience in August, 2013, "to look at how [the Metroparks] are spending money."


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