$350K/Year Boston Catholic Schools Superintendent Leaving

July 21, 2013

It is official.  Praise God–our prayers at BCI have been answered! Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education in the Boston Archdiocese, is stepping down.  Earning $343,000 a year, she has been the “poster child” for excessive six-figure salaries paid to lay executives in the Boston Archdiocese in recent years.  BCI and others have been complaining about her and her salary for three years now.  Here is what the Boston Globe reported about her departure:

O’Neill said that she decided to leave her job after her five-year contract expired in June and that she will be looking for a position outside the district. Her annual salary package is $343,705, according to archdiocesan records.

She described her tenure as exhilarating and challenging, and said she was proud of her work in helping students prepare for college and career.

“I loved every single moment of my time in the archdiocese,” she said.

Her work apparently had so impressed Cardinal Sean O’Malley that he had tried in vain to persuade her to stay, according to archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon.

‘The Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston are in a much better place today because of Dr. O’Neill’s dedication and commitment.’

“I came here to work for five years for the cardinal,’’ said O’Neill. “And the time has flown by. I had to decide if I should stay or make a change.”

O’Neill said she is leaving the school system in a stronger place than when she took over in 2008.

She took charge after decades of sweeping demographic change, as schools were closing and consolidating to deal with a steady tide of urban parishioners moving out to the suburbs. In the 1960s, the archdiocesan schools taught more than 150,000 students. Now the enrollment is 41,000, said Donilon.

Archdiocesan officials said that central to her tenure was reorganization of the Catholic Schools Office, which focused on increasing early education enrollment, supplying tools and data to help the district thrive, and reducing isolation by expanding partnerships between the central office and schools.

Under her watch, early education enrollment increased by 17 percent, and Catholic school enrollment rose 2 percent in Boston.

O’Neill’s department teamed with local colleges and assisted in the formation of Catholic academies in Lawrence, Quincy, South Boston, Dorchester, and Mattapan. The Catholic Schools Office also implemented the cardinal’s strategic plan for Catholic education.

“Our schools have realized significant improvements in academics while continuing to strengthen their Catholic identity and faith formation,’’ O’Malley said in a statement. “The Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston are in a much better place today because of Dr. O’Neill’s dedication and commitment.”

We are delighted that Mary Grassa O’Neill has decided to move on.  Still, we are disappointed to hear that the Cardinal tried to keep her. We would very much to see the Cardinal’s strategic plan for Catholic education, as we have yet to see that publicly anywhere.  We would also be remiss to not point out the problems during her rein and things not stated in the announcement of her departure:

  • How overall Catholic schools enrollment and the number of parish-based Catholic schools DROPPED during her tenure. Enrollment was about 43,000 students when she started in 2008 and is at 41,000 now.
  • The number of parish-based Catholic schools that closed during the past five years
  • The flat out lie to everyone in the archdiocese and country underlying the Catholic School policy to admit the children of homosexual parents. (See Diocesan Deception in Catholic Schools Admission Policy).
  • How she has all but eliminated local control over selection of would-be principals. On at least two occasions, local committees have forwarded one and only one candidate for a principal, and she rejected the choices.
  • How she has violated Canon law and principles of subsidiarity by overruling sitting pastors in the selection process for school leadership
  • How she exercised favoritism and cronyism to exclude qualified candidates for Catholic school roles, while putting forward people she wanted for roles who were less qualified.
  • How she hired a friend of hers as principal for a parish-based school, despite concerns at that principal’s two past jobs–financial mismanagement allegations at a Boston Catholic Academy where she departed suddenly, and a guilty finding in a lawsuit and 5-figure settlement paid as a result of her having forged a teacher’s letter of resignation while n the Boston Public Schools
  • How she has pushed the unproven Common Core curriculum into Boston Catholic schools  and refused to meet with concerned parents who opposed the move.
  • How she has failed to implement policies or guidelines for school principals
  • How there is no evidence whatsoever that she strengthened the “Catholic identity and faith formation” in Catholic schools. In fact, it appears that Catholic identity in Catholic schools is steadily declining.
  • How she ignored problems with advancement of the homosexual agenda at Sacred Heart School in Kingston
  • How she ignored issues with harassment of a teacher at St. Catherine School in Norwood by other teachers at the school, including one who is a convicted felon

Vicar General Bishop Deeley said the following in his announcement about her departure on Friday:

Among her achievements are the reorganization of the Catholic Schools Office and the priority of support for pastors, principals, faculty and staff at the schools. Her contributions have brought great benefit to the more than 41,000 students who are enrolled in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese.  She has put us on the path of revitalizing and reinvigorating Catholic education throughout the Archdiocese by developing and implementing the Cardinal’s Strategic Plan for Catholic Education.

Blah blah blah. If we are on the path to revitalizing and reinvigorating Catholic education, where is the actual evidence of that? Regarding a replacement for Grassa O’Neill, Bishop Deeley said:

A process will be implemented for the selection of a new Secretary for Education/Superintendent and further announcements will be made regarding an interim appointment for this position.

 We hope and pray that people like Fr. Bryan Hehir and Sr. Janet Eisner are kept far away from the search committee for her successor. We also hope that Cardinal O’Malley insists on a devout Catholic for the role–and that both the search committee and all candidates for the role affirm their acceptance of all teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Fleecing the Flock in Boston

February 4, 2013

As we continue exposing the violation of fiduciary responsibility in the Boston Archdiocese, we wanted to share with you another excellent video by ChurchMilitant.TV, called “Fleecing the Flock.”

Here are some highlights from the Michael Voris video:

[Voris] “The Boston Archdiocese .. which it needs to be stressed, has been a hotbed of dissent and wildly unorthodox treatment of Church teachings .. not to mention the epicenter of the homosexual clergy sex abuse crisis ten years ago .. also, unsurprisingly finds itself over a hundred million dollars in debt. That’s what you get when you depart from the truth – Catholics falling away like snowflakes in a blizzard.

A dozen chancery personnel are each making gross amounts of money for the work they do. The top dog on the list is the secretary for education. This woman needs a wheel barrel to take home her pay each week .. get this .. over a third of a million dollars each year in pay. Compare that to the NY City Superintendent of Public schools .. who only makes $250,000 a year.”

[BCI] Are there published, measurable goals for Catholic schools?  Are they being met?  What is the program and what are the standards for Catholic faith formation in Catholic schools? Why has the excessive salary of Schools Superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill increased in recent years? What exactly has she achieved?

[Voris] And as you move down the list of Boston Archdiocese workers .. the numbers .. the gross salaries are nothing if not .. well gross. It’s one thing to make a living wage .. its another thing to be cashing in on dying particular church. 16 people are pulling down nearly 4 million dollars between them in annual pay and benefits.

A little history beyond the numbers here will help. A couple years back when lay people began complaining about the exorbitant salaries being paid .. out of a sense of embarrassment, the archdiocese put together a “committee” to look into it. One gets the sense that this is NOT what Our Blessed Lord meant when He said .. do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.

So this committee canvassed other archdioceses around the country and came up with a salary range for each position. It found that many of its workers were on the high end of the range, so in response .. the archdiocese just halted some pay raises.

[BCI] The “committee” is, once again, how Cardinal O’Malley removes himself from responsibility or accountability for fleecing the flock.

[Voris] That people who are working for the Church are in fat cat positions .. whether in Boston or other places smacks of unethical or immoral .. if not down right sinful. Armed with this knowledge .. one begins to wonder if the reason so little actually changes in chanceries all over the country is because those who work in have a VESTED interest .. a REALLY VESTED interest in not rocking the boat.

Why on earth would they rock the boat and risk a quarter million dollar pay check and retirement plan? Another question – Is it even just for people in the Church to be making
that kind of money, when they have so clearly failed, in epic fashion to advance the Church, grow her numbers, heck even hold serve.

The Church is in all out retreat across the country, thousands of parishes closed, many hundreds of schools shuttered, millions having walked away from the faith and yet the
people who operate the machinery and pull the levers are practically laughing all the way to the bank. This situation is approaching spiritually criminal.

The money that goes into these people’s paychecks and retirement plans comes from the faithful and the collection basket. How many are sitting in those pews struggling in a
wrecked economy .. only to be feeding a bloated bureaucracy and not even really aware of it.

And what about the idea of working for the Kingdom, also, primarily being a vocation? Not that a living wage can’t be earned, of course it should be. But isn’t a hundred
thousand dollars a year enough. After all, that’s more than TWICE the average income for a family of four in the United States. Would $75,000 suffice. All over the country .. good hard-working faithful Catholics labor away to advance the truth of the faith .. to help save souls .. to preach the kingdom.

They work in apostolates like this .. I can assure you making NOTHING even approaching those kinds of pays. They work in Crisis Pregnancy centers .. home schooling centers .. new and upcoming colleges committed to the faith .. high schools that had to be started because the Professional Catholic crowd has failed both miserably and spectacularly in every aspect of their job .. other than negotiating their professional sports sized compensation packages.

Just how much does an Archdiocesan Communications director make in NY or Los Angeles, or Philly or Chicago? How about the Human Resources Director or the Education Czar in these places – are they all making massive six figure salaries?

And if they are – where are the results? In the private sector – it is argued, that the enormous salaries are paid because of the person’s expertise and skill and that the
company is growing and raking in profits and the top brass are responsible for that and so they SHOULD be handsomely compensated.

[BCI] Not a single one of the people below, not all even Catholics, will rock the boat. What results are they delivering? Mass attendance continues to drop in Boston, Central Operations is running a $6M annual deficit, the diocese has almost a $140M debt, the financial situation in parishes continues to get worse, and Catholic schools are being closed, yet the salaries remain excessive and some are increasing.RCAB salaries 2012

Whose fault it is? The blame rests ultimately on Cardinal O’Malley, then on Vicar General Deeley, Chancellor  John Straub, and Finance Council Vice Chair Jack McCarthy. Next it rests on all of the “Professional Catholic” and non-Catholic lay executives who have asked for these salaries and are willing to participate in “fleecing the flock” by accepting the fat paychecks. Pastors should be complaining at vicariate and Presbyteral Council meetings and start refusing to fork over their IFRM payments. And the people in the pews need to stop donating to the Catholic Appeal, complain to their pastors and ask their pastors to complain to the archdiocese.

Debt-Ridden Boston Archdiocese Pays Lay Execs $3.7M, Violates Fiduciary Responsibility and Motu Proprio

February 1, 2013

The Boston Archdicoese, saddled with $137 million in debt and operating deficits of $11 million in the past two years, paid their top lay executives $3.7M in salaries and benefits in the past year. They acknowledge many are overpaid, and to add insult to injury, they even gave raises to some overpaid execs last year. This excessive spending on salaries violates the diocese’s fiduciary responsibility to make proper use of donor funds, and it also violates the recent Motu Proprio from the Pope Benedict XVI. Because the Massachusetts Attorney General has oversight for Non-Profits and their use of donor funds, she has reason to intervene.  Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Malley appears to be fiddling, as the fiscal and moral version of “Rome” is burning.

There is enough content here to take multiple blog posts. We will cover as much as possible today and continue in subsequent posts.  That Boston was paying excessive six figure salaries to lay execs has been a public complaint for more than three years. That nothing is being done about it, even with the window-dressing of a “Compensation Committee” formed in 2010 is an even bigger travesty, especially even after publication of the Pope’s “Motu Proprio.” First we cover the “Motu Proprio” and diocesan code of conduct guidelines, then the salaries, the Compensation Committee report, and then examples.

“Motu Proprio

Signed on November 11, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI and officially in effect December 10, 2012, the Motu Proprio says salaries need to be in due proportion to analagous expenses of the diocesan curia.

§ 4. In a particular way, the Bishop is to see that the management of initiatives dependent on him offers a testimony of Christian simplicity of life. To this end, he will ensure that salaries and operational expenses, while respecting the demands of justice and a necessary level of professionalism, are in due proportion to analogous expenses of his diocesan Curia.

Priests in the Boston curia are paid about $41K annually.  How can anyone in the Boston Archdiocese claim that the $300K+ salaries of their top execs are in “due proportion” to the analogous expenses of the diocesan Curia? Here is our December blog post describing the violation.

Archdiocesan Code of Conduct

The diocesan Code of Conduct says:

“Church Personnel will be responsible stewards of the resources, human and financial, of the Archdiocese and any Archdiocesan Affiliated Organization with  which they are associated, observing both canon and civil law, and making decisions concerning the disposition of resources that reflect Catholic social teaching.”

Salaries Disclosed in 2012 Annual Report

The 2012 Annual Report released on Friday, January 18, reports that 16 lay executives are paid more than $150,000 a year, and on top of that, another 10 are paid $100K or more a year. The salaries of the top-paid execs can be found in pages 77-82 of the pdf.  12 of the 16 people paid $150K+ are listed in the report, but it is easy for anyone to determine with high certainty who the other 4 are from the Pastoral Center directory based on titles.  (BCI knows several are paid $200K+ and the others a little less than $200K, so we assumed an average of $200K for their salaries in the table below).  To make it easier for you to see all 16, we have arranged the publicly available data in the table below (click on image to zoom):

RCAB salaries 2012

Compensation Committee Report

The short version of the story here is that the “Compensation Committee” formed in November 2010 to study compensation and address the complaints about excessive six-figure salaries spent tens of thousands of dollars of donor funds and accomplished next to nothing.  Their “report,” if you can call it that, is on page 83 of the Annual Report.  They hired a consultant, AON, to do a study, which probably cost a minimum of $30K.

“We determined that the competitive environment varies by position. Depending on the job, the arena in which we compete for talent includes some or all of the following: other Catholic organizations, other not-for-profit groups, and for-profit organizations. The peer group against which we measure ourselves is tailored for each position. The consultants accessed numerous data bases containing applicable information, and conducted a custom survey of Catholic dioceses. The results of the study are as follows:

a. Six of the senior lay executives are paid between the 50th and the 75th percentiles;
b. Five of the positions have attributes that are unique to our Archdiocese, and are paid comparably to peers in the Archdiocese with similar levels of responsibility; and
c. Five of the senior lay executives are paid above the 75th percentile.

“The Committee believes that, over time, most senior lay executive positions should be paid at approximately the median compensation (or 50th percentile) identified in the salary study, as updated from time to time.”  There is more, but wait a moment.

In other words, a) 6 of 16 people are slightly to somewhat overpaid, c) 5 of 16 people are way overpaid (note, there is no upper limit specified, so some could be off the charts overpaid), and b) 5 other people are overpaid comparably to their Boston Archdiocesan peers who are overpaid, but we justify it based on their “unique attributes.”


Now the “unique attributes” justification:

“There are, however, factors that may require pay at levels that differ from the median, and the amount any particular individual is paid should reflect such factors. These include the nature of an individual’s experience to include the time and performance in the role, the uniqueness of an individual’s qualifications, the scope of the position relative to those included in the salary study, the strategic importance of the position, and the urgency and seriousness of any problems that need to be addressed. All individuals in the group are currently paid at a level that is consistent with our compensation philosophy.”

So, once they determined that basically everyone was overpaid, then they apparently created a “compensation philosophy” to justify overpaying everyone. That philosophy is summed up here:

“Our philosophy is based on the belief that senior lay executives are employed by the Archdiocese to advance the mission of the Church, and that accomplishing this goal requires competent, compassionate, efficient and effective leadership. The purpose of the compensation system is to enable the Archdiocese to attract and retain individuals whose personal goals and achievements are in harmony with the Church’s teachings, and whose motivation, talents and capabilities will assist the Church in achieving its objectives. This means that our pay practices must be: (i) competitive, so that we are able to hire people with the requisite qualifications; (ii) equitable, so that our employees are paid fairly relative to one another; and (iii) realistic, so that they reflect economic conditions in the Archdiocese and in the wider world.”

Without seeing the actual AON study, there is no proof they achieved (i) or (ii) and lots of other evidence they did not, and it is abundantly clear they have not achieved a compensation scheme that reflects the economic conditions in this archdiocese, where 40-50% of parishes cannot pay their bills and Central Operations lost $11M in the past 2 years. They apparently missed the “Motu Proprio” and should go back to work to add a new item “(iv) pay in due proportion to analogous expenses of the Boston diocesan Curia.”

The poster-child for excessive compensation, Mary Grassa O’Neill (see “Up in alms over salaries”), is perhaps the highest-paid lay Catholic diocesan employee in the country, making far more than public school superintendents in New York and Los Angeles who have 10X+ more responsibility. She just had her pay upped from $325K to $341K. Just one more quick example of the evidence they are over-paying is:

Carol Gustavson: Executive Director Lay Benefits: $169,190. A proud ex-Catholic whose previous experience was as a labor attorney for a newspaper. When they slashed lay pensions in 2011, readers reported she was unable to respond to basic questions about pensions in the public meetings. As reported here, she was making $149,999 before her job as Executive Director of HR was reduced by about 2/3 in 2011. Other archdioceses we surveyed said they were not paying their head of HR nearly what Carol was making when she was responsible for HR and paid $149,999–coincidentally, just enough to fall below the $150K limit for reporting in past years.   Jim DiFrancesco is “Director of Human Resources” and Carol is largely just responsible for Pension/Medical Trust (minus the prior work of dealing with plans for 10,000 Caritas Christi employees who now are Steward Healthcare’s responsibility).  A pension/medical plan administrator for an archdiocese like Boston makes around $80-85K.  Amount of excessive pay: $70-80K.  Oh, we forgot, she is also responsible for bringing yoga into the Pastoral Center.

The whole situation is frankly, preposterous.  It will take us multiple blog posts to address the depth of the problem.  Now that the Boston Archdiocese has just finished giving fat raises to most of overpaid people (a topic for the next post), all the Compensation Committee is doing is the following:

At the Committee’s recommendation, no merit increase was granted for FY 2013 to any member of the senior lay executive group whose salary was at or above the applicable median. In the future, compensation should be limited to levels that satisfy our compensation philosophy through tools such as renegotiation of contracts, sunsetting of current pay and/or salary freezes.

In the future?  How about in the present while the archdiocese is $137M in debt (not counting the $50M in lay benefits owed to former employees, off the books entirely now), is running a $6M annual operating loss, and has half the parishes in the red? Why not immediately start reducing salaries by 10% as of 90 days from now, with successive 10% cuts every 90 days until they get overpaid execs where they need to be?

Every Catholic, plus the Attorney General and Vatican should be up in arms about this financial scandal. If you care about the future ability of the Boston Archdiocese to carry on the saving mission of Jesus Christ, click below to send a copy of this blog post via email to the Papal Nuncio  [nuntiususa@nuntiususa.org] the Massachusetts Attorney General Division of Public Charities [charities@state.ma.us] and the Boston Globe [newstip@globe.com].

Superintendent’s Salary Explained: Part 2

May 10, 2011

We had some WordPress technical issues with display of our most recent post, so before reading today, be sure to check out our previous post, Schools Superintendent Salary Explained: Part 1.

In our last post, we shared the response to an Ethicpoint whistleblower complaint about the $325K/year compensation of Mary Grassa O’Neill.  The person who filed the report got a response back via Ethicspoint saying i) the Cardinal was within his authority to appoint her and pay commensurate with her experience in order to lure her from Harvard to the Archdiocese, and ii) A Compensation Committee was forming and planned to hire a consultant to help them sort through the situation and issue a report with the next fiscal year annual report a year from now.

The comments from readers were so insightful that you really need to read them all.  We will re-post selected ones separately, but for today we bring you Part 2 of the saga–the follow-up report submitted by the person who filed the first one and was “livid” over the indifferent response.



Issue Type

Donor Stewardship

Please identify the person(s) engaged in this behavior:

Jim McDonough –  Chancellor
Cardinal O’Malley – Archbishop
George Massaro – Chair, Audit Committee

Do you suspect or know that a supervisor or management is involved?


If yes, then who?

Cardinal O’Malley
Finance Council, including Audit Commitee

Is management aware of this problem?

What is the general nature of this matter?
irresponsible  stewardship of the resources of the archdiocese

Where did this incident or violation occur?
the incident started in 2008, but I also wish to report the apparent corruption of the Ethicspoint  process, which occurred with my report filed 3/27/2011


I previously submitted a report complaining about the excessive compensation for Mary Grassa O’Neill. I gave evidence of how her compensation of $325k/year is well in excess of what is paid to other public school superintendents (e.g. $50-75K more than Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago). It is also at least $100K-$150k more than any other Catholic archdiocese pays for a comparable role.

Because Mary Grassa O’Neill is paid so far in excess of what other Catholic archdioceses pay for this role and public school systems pay for someone of her  qualification level, this objectively constitutes a violation of the Code of Conduct which says:

“Church Personnel will be responsible stewards of the resources, human and financial, of the Archdiocese and any Archdiocesan Affiliated Organization with  which they are associated, observing both canon and civil law, and making decisions concerning the disposition of resources that reflect Catholic social teaching.”

Your explanation and justification for her salary suggests very strongly that the Ethicspoint process in the Archdiocese of Boston is already corrupted.

The compensation package offered to Ms. O’Neill is NOT commensurate with her experience if she were employed by a major metropolitan public school system or Catholic archdiocese.

It IS in violation of the Archdiocesan policy concerning responsible stewardship of resources.

For the Compensation Commitee to now spend money engaging a private consulting firm to help assess compensation levels is in violation of the policy regarding responsible stewardship of resources. Why can’t Jim M or Carol G in HR just call 5 other dioceses and ask what they are paying for these roles, and what kinds of background the executives have?

I am most disappointed in your response. It suggests this new Ethicspoint whistleblower process is already rigged and corrupt.


4/20/2011 3:07 PM – Thank you for filling your report. We take all concerns seriously and have completed a review of this issue. Unfortunately we are unable tgo  inform you of the specifics of our investigation; however, please know that your issue has been addressed.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BCI is almost speechless about what happened.  First the archdiocese responded dismissing the concern, but saying a Compensation Committee was being formed and would hire a consultant who would issue a report. (That means the 2011 annual report that would be issued a year from now).  Then the complaintant was sufficiently upset that they filed a second report reiterating that the excessive salary violates the Archdiocesan policy concerning responsible stewardship of resources and complaining that the anti-corruption whistleblower process was itself corrupt.  That resulted in a response back that said the “issue has been addressed.”

Only problem is that the complaintant tells BCI they still do not know which “issue has been addressed?” Is it Mary Grassa O’Neill’s salary and how her compensation is in conflict with responsible stewardship of resources?  Is it the spending of money on a consultant to solve the problem they should be able to solve themselves as responsible managers and stewards of resources?  Is it the corruption in the anti-corruption whistleblower process?

Beyond the question “Is Archdiocesean Anti-Corruption Effort Corrupted and Conflicted?” BCI raised last week and which this complaintant also raised, the whole approach taken with compensation in the past and going forward seems like it needs an overhaul.  As a starting point, every member of the Compensation Committee should read this common sense comment on our last post from Deacon A.J. Constantino.

If someone on the Archdicoesan Cabinet, the Compensation Committee or the Finance Council wants to do the right thing, could you send smoke signals, drop us an email, or otherwise indicate you get the message?  We are just trying to help here by airing these concerns from faithful Catholics, but it seems like no one gets it at 66 Brooks Drive.


Anyone there?

Hello?  Hello?

Schools Superintendent Salary Explained: Part 1

May 9, 2011

After many months of people asking how the Archdiocese of Boston justifies paying Superintendent of Schools, Mary Grassa O’Neill, $325,000/year, an answer has finally been offered by the archdiocese.

Sort of.

According to an anonymous archdiocesan official responding via Ethicspoint to an anonymously submitted Ethicspoint report:

“…the Cardinal is well within his authority to make such an appointment. The compensation package offered to Ms. O’Neill is commensurate with her experience and acknowledges her departure from a much coveted position at Harvard to serve the Archdiocese.”

In other words, the Cardinal and the Archdiocese, a public charity, can do whatever they darned well want to do and pay people whatever asking price they demand.

Here is the original report, sent to BCI, followed by the full Ethicspoint response.  We have edited it slightly to save space.


What is the general nature of this matter?

Poor stewardship of assets via excessive compensation of lay executives.


Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education currently makes $325,000 from the archdiocese, on top of a state teachers’ pension worth at least $75,000 annually. No other Catholic archdiocese pays at her level. You can check with NY, Chicago, LA, and others.

In the larger public school system in Boston with 56,000 students, Carol Johnson makes $275,000.


[Superintendent Carol] Johnson told the Herald she won’t take any pay hikes or bonuses during the rest of her contract in Boston.

“I don’t think in a period where schools are cutting resources for children, any of us can expect to take raises,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s contract pays her an annual salary of $275,000 through June 30, 2012. She has also refused annual performance bonuses, a 2.5 percent pay raise each year and a $600-a-month car allowance.

“I don’t expect anyone to do what I’m doing,” said Johnson, the city’s highest-paid worker. “But in the public sector, you’re held to a higher standard of accountability with the use of public resources, and that’s how it should be.”

Public schools in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles that serve as much as 10X to 25X the number of students and where the operational responsibility is greater–namely, they  have management responsibility for budgets, hiring/firing, curriculum, transportation, labor negotiations–pay their top administrators $250,000:

Joel Klein, chancellor of the NY City public schools [editorial note, the largest school system in the country], makes $250K/year. They teach 1.1 million students in 1600 schools with an annual budget of $17 billion. Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the second-largest school system in the country, Los Angeles, also makes $250K/year. They have 694,288 students, 45,473 teachers and 38,494 other employees, and 1044 schools. The total school district budget for 2009-2010 is $7.3 billion. In her last superintendent job running the Milton Public Schools, her annual compensation was $138,000.

Supposedly, she sat on the search committee to fill this role, and then was asked to apply for the position herself. The members of the search committee have never been disclosed, except for chair, Sr. Janet Eisner.

Objectively, there is no basis for paying somebody at this level inside the Catholic Church, and her compensation is wasting donations and assets.


4/5/2011 6:08 PM:

“After careful consideration and review the Cardinal is well within his authority to make such an appointment. The compensation package offered to Ms. O’Neill is commensurate with her experience and acknowledges her departure from a much coveted position at Harvard to serve the Archdiocese.

Additionally, the compensation offered to Ms.  O’Neill is not in violation of any Archdiocesan policies nor is it in violation of any applicable laws or regulations governing compensation.

The Finance Committee of the Archdiocese is in the process of formulating a Compensation Committee to, among other things, review compensation of Archdiocesan employees greater than $150,000. This Committee will be provided the resources necessary to engage a private consulting firm that can aid in the assessment of current compensation levels if necessary. Ultimately, the Committee will be charged with providing a formal report with the release of the annual financial statements report each year. Ms. O’Neill’s compensation will be part of that first review.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The person who submitted this report and shared the response with BCI said they were “livid” with the Ethicspoint-brokered response and submitted a follow-up Ethicspoint report saying: “I am most disappointed in your response. It suggests this new Ethicspoint whistleblower process is already rigged and corrupt.”

We will publish that follow-up report next time.  This is another one of the four reports sent to us where the response seems to have ignored some of the fundamental issues raised in the report. See Is Archdiocesean Anti-Corruption Effort Corrupted and Conflicted? for the first example.  Needless to say, as we blogged about last Friday in “Questionable Composition of Compensation Committee,” BCI does not think the concept of a Compensation Committee is the right solution to the problem of excessive compensation, and the fact that the committee chair and several members are multi-millionaire CEOs and business executives leaves it subject to criticism from the get-go.  We wrote to the committee members to share our concerns and will keep you posted if and when we heard back, but do not hold your breath waiting.

To whomever is responding to these, we are starting to see a vaguely familiar pattern of dismissiveness and defense of the status quo (with a hint of arrogance in the tone), rather than acknowledgment that the report might have merit.  Is this coming from the top?

For the integrity of the new whistleblower process, BCI suggests that those behind the program adopt a perspective that instead genuinely acknowledges the merits of the claim, even if that upsets the status quo.  As for the school superintendent’s salary and the explanation that $325K is what it took to lure Mary Grassa O’Neill from Harvard, we will leave that to our readers to comment on.

What do you think?

Reducing Salaries

March 1, 2011

Headlines in the Boston Globe Sunday said, “Patrick takes aim at agency salaries: Hefty payrolls at state’s independent bodies attract new scrutiny.”  The governor’s secretary of housing and economic development, said Patrick is reviewing salaries…at the state’s 42 independent agencies and will reduce those he believes are excessive.

Meanwhile, at the Pastoral Center at 66 Brooks Drive, has anyone heard any moves from the leadership of the archdiocese about reducing excessive salaries doled out over the course of the past six years?  Nope.  Nearly 4 months after the Finance Council amended their Charter to create a Compensation Committee, they have not even published the names of the committee members on the Finance Council website.

Beyond that, this weekend the new development “dream team”–you know, the “transparent and accountable” team that missed their most recent two major goals but will not let anyone know the results–will launch the annual Catholic Appeal for 2011.  There will be a video from Cardinal Sean played at every parish recounting yet again how much the archdiocese needs your contributions to support critical ministries, while at the same time no one at 66  Brooks Drive cares to deal with the small matter of dumping more than $1M of your contributions down the drain annually on excessive six-figures. 

Former employees just received letters telling by exactly how much their pension benefits has been slashed because the archdiocese does not have enough money to fund the plan, but no one has the intestinal fortitude to do anything about the excessive salaries, where savings could have made the pension cuts less severe.

In case people have forgotten some of the most egregious examples, we highlight them once again for you, and how just adjusting the salaries of 5 of the six-figure salaried staff saves a cool half million dollars:

Carol Gustavson, Pension/Medical Plan Trust Administrator.  Was making somewhere in the range of $125K to more like about $150K before her job as Executive Director of HR was reduced by about 2/3, and we believe she is still making that. Other archdioceses we surveyed said they were not paying their head of HR nearly what Carol was making when she was responsible for HR.  Now, Jim DiFrancesco is “Director of Human Resources” and Carol is only responsible for the Pension/Medical Trust (minus most of the work of dealing with plans for 10,000 Caritas Christi employees who now mostly Steward’s responsibility).  Oh yeah, Carol is also responsible for the incredibly taxing jobs of coordinating the phone system and Pastoral Center floor plan. A pension/medical plan administrator for an archdiocese like Boston makes around $80-85K.  Annual salary savings: $70,000.

Terry Donilon, Communications Secretary.  Currently makes $166,304.  By means of comparison, sources indicate that the lay communications secretary who preceded Terry–and who was actually good with spelling and grammar–started at about $100K and was making $115K when she left.  But of course, she was not hired for the archdiocesan job by Ann Carter at Rasky Baerlein through Donilon family political connections like Terry was.  Coincidentally, BCI just happened to be looking at what the State of Massachusetts pays for communications staff in a similar role.  According to this “Your Tax Dollars at Work” listing, Gov. Deval Patrick’s former communications director and press secretary, Kyle Sullivan was paid $97,850/year in 2009 to communicate information for the Governor of a state with an estimated population of 6.6 million people and a budget of about $27 billion.  Terry is paid to communicate information for an archdiocese of about 300,000 Church-going Catholics and 2 million total Catholics with a $34M Central Ministries budget.  Regardless of how you do the math, the person in his role should be making no more than $115K.  Annual salary savings: $50,000.

Jim McDonough, Chancellor.  Currently makes $250,000. The former CEO of Abington Bank, he held 244,665 shares or 6.28% of the stock when it was sold to Seacoast for $139.4 million in June of 2004, making his stock at the time worth nearly $9 million.  Needless to say, when he took the job, he said he was “very blessed and didn’t need a job.”  If he didn’t need a job, why has he soaked the cash-poor archdiocese for nearly $1.25M in salary since 2006? If top lay administrators were capped at $150,000 in this archdiocese, the annual salary savings would be $100,000.

Beirne Lovely, General Counsel: Currently makes $300,000This is basically a post-retirement job for the 65-year-old attorney, after he spent 32 years at the national law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, most recently as senior partner. If top lay administrators were capped at $150,000 in this archdiocese, the annual salary savings would be $150,000.

Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education.  Currently makes $325,000 from the archdiocese, on top of a state teachers’s pension worth at least $75,000 annually. We have covered her excessive six-figure salary already. No other Catholic archdiocese pays at her level.  Much larger public school systems in Boston, New York, Chicago,  and Los Angeles that serve as much as 10X to 25X the number of students pay their top administrators less. In her last superintendent job running the Milton Public Schools, her annual compensation was $138,000.  With a lay administrator salary cap at $150,000, the annual salary savings would be $175,000.

There is much more to be saved in excessive salaries, as we covered previously in “How to Save $2 Million Annually Without Really Trying: Part 1”  This is just five people or many making excessive compensation relative to other archdioceses. No established goals, metrics for success, or accountabilities.  Salary savings alone for these 5 people/roles would be $550,000.  We have raised concerns in “Is Boston Archdiocese Violating the Law?” and many other posts.  Apparently neither the Cardinal nor the Finance Council, who are canonically charged with ensuring the temporal goods and assets of the archdiocese are well cared for, cares about this.

Since those charged with caring for archdiocesan assets are not caring for them, Catholics need to complain even more to their pastors, and pastors need to complain at vicariate meetings and at the Presbyteral Council and withhold contributions from the archdiocese.  We hate to say this, but Catholics probably also need to make a stink about this to the Holy See and to the government agencies charged with overseeing non-profits.

Much as BCI has to criticize about Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, at least he is making public statements and efforts to cut excessive salaries.  He cut his pay and legislative salaries by 5% in January in view of the state budget situation and ongoing recession. Now he is going after excessive salaries in other agencies.

In the Archdiocese, what are they doing?  Nothing. 

After you hear the video from the Cardinal this weekend asking for money, chat with your pastor and let him know you are not going to give to the appeal, and tell him why.

Have we missed anything?

Archdiocesan Finance Council: New Compensation Committee Formed

November 18, 2010

Readers, anyone who feels we are not making slow but steady progress need look no further.

Last Wednesday, Nov 10, the archdiocese announced to all employees that BostonCatholic.org now includes an up-to-date listing of the members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council.  That may seem minor, but it represents progress.  Along with the progress, we are not yet sure what to make of one more piece of news. We now have yet another committee–this one formed to review compensation for senior lay executives and recommend changes, where needed, to the Archbishop.

The publication of the members of the Finance Council is at least a small win for Catholics in the archdiocese, since the more transparency that exists, the more accountability there will be.  And if the archdiocesan leaders–current ones and/or new ones that come on-board–are truly accountable and get to the point where they are acting in concert with the values of Christ and are not in it just for the money or power, it is more likely that people will trust the archdiocese and the good works of the church can continue.  Maybe that is too much to expect yet today–we will see.

Anyway, the archdiocese used to publish the  list of Finance Council members through the time when the 2008 annual report was issued, but then they inexplicably stopped.  We have been asking them about this since August 23, and it only took ten weeks in which to get back to doing that which was being done previously.  This shows that things are just cranking at break-neck speed at 66 Brooks Drive.

At the end of this post, you will see the message that tells you where you can find the names of the people on the council.  But, before we get to the new people added to the council, we thought we should let you know about a major change to the charter of the Finance Council.

The current charter, amended November 10, 2010, has created a new “Compensation Committee.”  Here is a description of the committee:

The Compensation Committee shall develop and submit to the Finance Council for its review, and for approval by the Archbishop, a statement of the compensation philosophy of the Archdiocese for senior lay executive employees. The Committee shall review and recommend to the Archbishop all changes in senior lay executive compensation, including offers of employment for senior lay executive employees. For purposes of this Section H, “senior lay executive employees” shall have the meaning determined by the Committee. The Committee will perform an annual review of all compensation for senior lay executive employees to ensure that compensation falls within ranges that are consistent with the approved compensation philosophy. Where deviations are observed, the Committee shall either determine that there is an acceptable reason therefore, or recommend a plan to correct the deviation. The Committee shall submit to the Finance Council an annual report on the compensation practices of the Archdiocese, which shall be included in the annual financial release of the Archdiocese. The Committee shall from time to time appoint a qualified independent compensation consultant to advise the Committee in the performance of its duties, and shall direct the consultant to conduct an analysis of competitive compensation practices and report to the committee thereon, at least once every three years. The Committee shall also advise on other compensation matters as requested. The Committee shall consist of at least one member of the Finance Council, and shall have members with proven credentials in executive compensation or other relevant general business experience.

Seems to us that this could, coincidentally, be a response to criticism by some people that the 6-figure salaries in the Pastoral Center—especially those at the $300K+ level–have gotten out of control and are unwarranted.  overpaidOnce the committee convenes, if they are looking for somewhere to start, we suggest they begin with Schools Superintendent, Mary Grassa O’Neill, whose salary of $325,000/year apparently makes her on a per-student basis the highest paid public or private school superintendent in the country. It is not clear those kinds of paychecks were ever justified, let alone at a time when  parishes are struggling to get out of the red and pay their bills and the archdiocese is cutting pension benefits to lay employees and retirees.

UPDATE: In response to several commenters, we are changing our perspective slightly.  We think some check-and-balance on compensation is a good idea. But, it is not clear that such a committee is the right approach, as it appears to give even more power to the Finance Council, treating it even moreso like it is the Board of Directors of a company, which it is not.  How many Catholic archdioceses have a “Compensation Committee”?  Since this committee is apparently a foregone conclusion for now, we hope and pray that they put someone in charge of this new committee who is neither independently wealthy nor the CEO of a company.  The chair of the committee should come with unquestioned integrity and no conflicts of interest, as should the committee members.

While we are looking at the new charter, we thought we should mention several flaws in the document, which suggest someone needs to still be watching carefully over the Finance Department and Chancellor’s office.

First off, this charter is not actually signed by anyone.  Article XII of the charter says that “Amendments become effective only upon approval by the Archbishop.”  Is this new amendment approved by the Archbishop?  If so, why is it not signed by him and notarized by a witness to his signature?

Secondly, the amendment history present in previous versions has now been removed for some reason.  Here is the version that was most recently amended in May of 2010.  Notice the amendment history, with a place for the signatures by both the Cardinal and Chancellor?  To maintain transparency and the history of changes, shouldn’t the amendment history be included in this version as well?

There are other aspects of the Finance Council Charter that we will get to in the coming days. When you have a few minutes, look over the May 2010 version to see if you can find the irregularities or areas where the Council is not actively fulfilling their chartered responsibilities.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt of the diocesan announcement of last week about the new information:


1.      Listing of Council Members

Our BostonCatholic.org website was updated this week to include a listing of the full membership of the College of Consultors, Archdiocesan Finance Council, Presbyteral Council and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.    We are deeply grateful for great leadership these members provide to in service to Christ and His Church.





More next time on the irregularities and unfulfilled responsibilities, unless you beat us to the punch via comments.

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