Hattiesburg Convention Center Director lobbying for 267k salary

Hattiesburg Convention Center Director lobbying for 267k salary

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention and Tourism Commission, Rick Taylor, is actively lobbying for an increased base salary of $267k, which would be funded by taxpayers.

Emails obtained through public records request by On Your Side reveal Taylor is soliciting for a 12 percent gross compensation increase to bring his base salary to $267,012.  That increase would go into effect this October.

In an email sent on 7/7/16 from Taylor to Convention Commission Board Member Bud Kirkpatrick, Taylor writes:

"We discussed the date of my last review and compensation adjustment (August 2013) and that the Commissions would like to get this process in order and moving on a more regular time frame. You suggested to propose to the Joint Management Personnel Review Committee a compensation increase of 12% from the gross compensation of 2013 ($238,404) to become effective this October at the start of FY2017. That would address the three year hiatus and create a baseline salary of $267,012 from which to start in future years"

Taylor acknowledged in the email that his previous $30k bonus should be tied to "pre-stated" objectives and that their current practice may violate state law if it continues.

"Recently, it has come to my attention and that of Carey Varnado, our legal counsel, that the Attorney General has issued more recent opinions that such payments should be tied to pre-stated objectives." Taylor states. "Therefore, it is my recommendation that we discontinue this practice in light of this new information."

A $267k salary would be considerably higher then Taylor's counterpart on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In a 2015 interview, Bill Holmes, Executive Director of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center told On Your Side that his salary was $140k.

Holmes retired last August.

The next tourism commission board meeting is scheduled for August 24 at the Lake Terrace Convention Center.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Hattiesburg Convention Commission Chairman, Andy Stetelman said Taylor's current salary is "appropriate"

"We carefully work with our commissions to determine appropriate salary levels for our executive director," Stetelman said.

You can read Stetelman's full statement below.

"Under Rick Taylor's leadership, Hattiesburg's tourism sector has experienced tremendous and consistent growth for the last twenty years. Rick is goal-oriented and highly-motivated in growing Hattiesburg, and his efforts have helped produce a positive return on taxpayers' investments year after year.