DIA sparking criticism with bonuses

(WXYZ) - The Detroit Institute of Arts is sparking criticism because the museum gave its top executives bonuses -- and even a loan for a home -- just months before the DIA asked voters for more funding. 

The person who seems to have cashed in the most is DIA Director Graham Beal.

There's a 'For Sale' sign in front of Graham Beal's beautiful home in Detroit's Palmer Woods.

And now tax filings reveal the museum gave the Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts a $155,832 loan for his house.  It's not clear why Beal is listing his home for sale.

In 2012, DIA leadership urged voters in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties to approve a millage.  It passed, giving the museum about $23 Million a year and making admission free.

"We now have 10 years of the kind of financial security we haven't had since the 1970's," said Beal in August of 2012.

But, at the same time Beal was asking for help, the museum was giving him a lot of money.

According to IRS records – Beal made $455,453 for the 2012 fiscal year, including a $35,000 bonus.  On top of that, he got the loan.

"This is an organization running off of benevolent contributions from individuals, foundations, large organizations, and is now a government funded organization to promote art.  And it's not a bank – it's not in the business to give a loan to me, you, let alone its executive director," said George W. Smith is a Southfield-based CPA who specializes in non-profits.  He questions the timing of the loan and asking the taxpayers to pitch in.

"I'm sure it'd be tough to put through once the millage went through to the tri-county area, if they knew part of that money in essence is going back out the door," said Smith.

IRS records show the museum was also taking an $8 million hit in their equity because of underfunded pension and retiree health costs.

But that did not stop them from also giving Chief Operating Officer Annmarie Erickson a $30,000 bonus as well for FY 2012.

Meanwhile, the idea of selling off DIA treasures to offset Detroit's $18 billion debt for the bankruptcy has been a source of controversy for months.

Local and national foundations have rushed to rescue the museum by creating a fund to protect city pensions and the DIA's artwork.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson spoke to 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo on the phone from Washington DC Tuesday.

"What I'm really upset about it is the timing could jeopardize this whole effort and that would be a real tragedy," said Patterson.

Patterson says he doesn't know if the bonuses and loans were necessary – but he hopes they don't jeopardize the effort to save the museum's masterpieces.

"Timing, timing, timing and right in the middle of some very delicate negotiations and you find out that those who are going to benefit from other people's largesse and sacrifice are doing alright," said Patterson.

Patterson is a key stakeholder in what happens now that Oakland county voters help fund the DIA.
DIA officials are refusing to answer any questions about the bonuses and loans.

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