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Monday, December 19, 2011

Cincinnati Chamber CEO's Pay Package Hits Nearly $510,000: Makes Double City Manager's Take, Nearly 10 Times A Teacher's Salary

Chamber Chief Compensation Hit $508,885

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ellen van der Horst's total compensation package was $508,885 as president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.  Her salary and benefits are disclosed in 2009 IRS documents filed by the Chamber, a non-profit organization that is exempt from taxes. The accompanying chart has the breakdown for the 9 highest compensated employees at the chamber.  Together, their base compensation, bonuses, retirement, deferred pay and other benefits totaled $2.029 million.  In all, they got about 14% of the entire Chamber budget.  As its goal, the Chamber says it wants, "To capture our place as one of the world's favorite American business centers."  Last month, van der Horst led a SW Ohio coalition that campaigned for Issue 2, a measure aimed at curbing salaries and benefits for government workers, including cops, firefighters and teachers.  The public employees earn much less -- the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average Ohio teacher made $54,070 in 2009.   Even Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney, whose pay package this year tops out at about $252,000, seems to make less than the Chamber chief.  And Dohoney appears to have far greater responsibilities -- he's in charge of a $340 million budget and about 5,400 workers.  At the Chamber, van der Horst oversaw 134 employees and a $15 million budget in 2009.

The Democrats and other groups opposing Issue 2 saw it as an attack on middle class collective bargaining rights; that the fat cats were ganging up on those less fortunate.  During the Issue 2 campaign last fall, van der Horst argued that Ohio was not competitive in the world economy.  She wrote that Issue 2 -- by imposing cuts on government workers -- would have created an environment that supported business growth:

"Issue 2 takes necessary steps to set such a new course for Ohio.  It ends 'business as usual' in government by providing the public sector with basic flexibility to make adjustments based on the realities of the economy rather than rigid, dated collective bargaining rules.  Opponents argue what Issue 2 asks for government employees is unreasonable, clouding the debate with threats of mass layoffs and irreparable damage to Ohio's economy . . . Finally and importantly, Issue 2 makes government accountable by putting decision-making back in the hands of directly elected officials versus unelected, unaccountable arbitrators and union leaders."

The Chamber chief blamed "unelected, unaccountable" folks for stripping the government of its accountability.  By the way, the Chamber gets government financial support, including $175,000 earmarked by Cincinnati City Council in the budget adopted last week. And the state puts in Third Frontier money.  Meanwhile, in Cincinnati (2009 data from the Sierra Club, has 36.4% of its population with an income below the poverty line.  For Hamilton County, 22.1% are in the same boat.  Of course, voters rejected Issue 2.

[UPDATE 1:02 p.m. -- To its credit, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce has its 2010 tax return posted on the chamber's website.  That bespeaks transparency.  The Dayton Chamber's top exec, Phillip L. Parker, had a base salary of $212,083.  His total compensation package was $256,944.  The numbers can be located on Schedule J.  Overall, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce reported revenue of $2.7 million.  Of that, about 9.49% went for Parker's pay, retirement fund and benefits.  The Dayton Chamber of Commerce also endorsed Issue 2.]


  1. It would be interesting to see how this pay package compares to long-timer John Williams when he was there. My guess is that it's way, way better.

    My recall is that Williams remained "of counsel" at the big Cincy law firm he worked for. Whether he still got a salary from them I of course wouldn't know.

    But ... if you want to contextualize van der Horst, you need to compare her salary to that of the heads of public-sector unions. Sadly, you'll find that her $$ are out of whack in that comparison, but the others aren't.

    Just one example:

    10 members of the Ohio Education Association make more than John Kasich's $148K (10??) with the top guy getting $210K. So, with the exception of the big guy vs. van der Horst, they're within striking distance of the Chamber's top 9 -- and two of the chamber's top 9 have gross pay before benefits which are less than Kasich.

    Both groups are IMO vastly overpaid vs. the value they deliver.

    Tom Blumer

  2. More than the president of Xavier University gets. More than Nancy Zimpher got at U.C.

  3. About four times the comp. of a Common Pleas judge and nowhere near the responsibility.

  4. I wonder how many Koch Brother dollars the Cincinnati Chamber receives?


    There are a lot of salaries listed here from Cincy Mag a few years back. Drake Center's president made $385,000. It was still owned by the county. The Cincinnati Symphony's president made $530,383.

    Robert Reifsnyder, United Way of Greater Cincinnati President, $278,618
    Neil Tilow, Talbert House President, $212,529
    Joseph S. Byrum, Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries President & CEO, $192,490
    Phil Burress, Citizens for Community Values President, $153,511
    John Young, FreeStore FoodBank Chief Executive, $135,000
    Robert W. Scudder, Elizabeth Gamble Deaconess Home Association VP, $126,512
    Mary Ivers, Dress for Success Executive Director, $62,923
    Tina Osso, Fairfield Shared Harvest Foodbank Director, $59,732
    Charley Frank, Cincinnati Reds Community Fund Director, $58,250

  6. Nice work if you can get it.

  7. If miss high and mighty at the chamber can add up and read the numbers on her paycheck she ought to thank a teacher. Pay for people teaching in public, private and parochial schools won't make any teachers millionaires. Service to society enriches them and the kids. Miss high and mighty wanted to stomp on teachers on her way to the bank.