Cover Story: United Way CEO Controversy

Published: Aug. 26, 2008 at 11:33 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2008 at 11:29 PM EDT
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The Charlotte United Way's CEO is out.  After enduring weeks of controversy over its CEO's compensation, the Board of Directors for the United Way of Central Carolinas today asked for Gloria Pace King's resignation.

It's perhaps the most visible of all Charlotte non-profits.  The United Way of Central Carolinas.

It collects money through annual campaigns and distributes it to more than 90 needy agencies around the region.

But where the United Way's made news recently is over what some consider an overly generous compensation package it awarded CEO for 14 years Gloria Pace King.

Last year King received more than $1.2 million which includes salary, bonus and an $822,000 contribution to her retirement fund.

Today, the United Way's chairman of the board, with the board's attorney alongside, announced it's firing its CEO and admitted the board made serious mistakes in her compensation.

"The executive committee and the leadership did not appreciate fully the impact that this was going to cause with the community," says Graham Denton, Board of Directors Chairman

In an attempt to diffuse the bad press today the Board named Mac Everett, former Wachovia executive and widely respected in the community interim CEO.

The United Way kicks off its annual fundraising campaign next week.

Last year it raised a record $45.3 million and even before the King compensation controversy there were signs of trouble.

With gas and food prices rising, agencies needs are greater than ever.

And major contributors like Wachovia and Bank of America and their employees have fallen on hard times translating into less donations.

King's retained high-profile attorney Bill Diehl to represent her.

Diehl says it's clear Gloria King did nothing wrong except take home a paycheck.  He says, "She didn't create this problem. She's worked there for 14 years and done a wonderful job. And everybody seems to agree with that. Nobody's saying she did a bad job now."

No one's saying she did a bad job, in fact King has been quite a rainmaker for the local United Way.

The issue for many people is the judgement of those who signed off on her compensation, the Board of Directors and whether the actions the board took today will help the United Way bounce back at this critical fundraising time.

Gloria Pace King has a contract.  The Board's going to pay out two more years on King's salary about $300K a year.  But stop payments to retirement fund which was so controversial.

Additionally, the board's taken steps to restore confidence appointing a task force to investigate what went wrong and explore how future CEO compensation will be decided.

United Way leaders hope it doesn't affect giving, but admit it might.