Knoxville mayor questions if tourism CEO's salary is excessive

Knoxville mayor questions whether tourism CEO's salary is excessive

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero is among those questioning if Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corp. CEO Gloria Ray is paid too much.

Ray's $405,000 pay package has been generating lots of questions.

Ray went before Knox County Commission Monday to give her argument for why KTSC is a good investment.

Mayor Rogero cautioned that while her administration is looking into it, she's not jumping to any conclusions.

6 News also spoke with Matt Morelock, owner of Morelock's Music, one of KTSC's success stories according to Ray. Ironically, Morelock has been one of the KTSC's most vocal opponents.

"The county commission has obviously for several years now laid down on the ground and let Gloria Ray walk all over them," said Morelock. "I don't think that the Knoxville public is going to let that happen anymore."

Morelock says he thinks $4 million for KTSC to promote the city and county is too much, that the money should be spread around including other groups that bring in tourists.

He also says he's most annoyed with the credit the group takes for numbers it can't prove.

"They present a case that they are responsible for the increase in tourism in Knoxville and Knox County, and thus they are deserving of the hotel and motel tax revenue and they deserve their overly inflated salaries, which I believe is a very arrogant position to take," Morelock said.

The hotel-motel tax paid by visitors is five percent on room rentals. The non-profit receives 45% of the tax, and the CEO gets bonuses based on those numbers increasing.

About $1 million comes from a contract with the city, which expires in June. 

"In terms of the compensation, we have shared with Gloria that we, that the salary appears to be excessive," said Mayor Rogero. "And we'll continue the conversations with her and her board about that."

Rogero contends the group does good work, but its results need to be carefully examined.

Morelock contends small businesses, like his, have the toughest time getting promotion.

"Oh they have worked with me," he said. "They brought me a really nice rate sheet. I have it here for the unbelievably, insanely large amount of money that I would have to pay them to get into the Knoxville Visitors Guide."

According to Morelock's 2012 rate sheet, the smallest ad in the guide costs $900. The largest costs $6,000. 

We requested an interview with Gloria Ray Tuesday. We were told she was in meetings, but officials would get back with us soon.

By state law, a portion of the five percent hotel-motel tax must be used to promote tourism. The city imposes an additional three percent tax.

All of that money must go to pay debt on the Knoxville Convention Center. So the city is paying KTSC some money out of its general fund. Officials expect it will be about $500,000 this year.

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