Atlantic City’s Marketing Arm Under Fire for Exec Salary, Expenses
A general view shows the empty streets outside The Caesar's Casino in Atlantic City. Jason Reed / Reuters
With beaches, great restaurants, hotel stock, and a bit of gaming, Atlantic City could become a great destination. Problem is it’s been run by the same New Jersey political hacks for years; people whose only discernible skill is spending silly money on dubious projects.
Atlantic City’s casino-funded marketing coalition paid its chief executive $400,000 in total compensation last year, according to a newly released document that also details the major finances and expenses of the private organization.
Liza Cartmell’s compensation package as president and CEO of the Atlantic City Alliance included a $50,000 signing bonus, she said.
Her full annual pay was made public for the first time in a financial disclosure form the alliance filed this month with the IRS as part of its status as a nonprofit organization. The Press of Atlantic City was provided a copy of the Form 990 by the alliance.
In an interview with the newspaper, Cartmell characterized her pay as “fair and equitable” compared to the salaries of other executives performing similar duties. Her salary was recommended by a head-hunting firm that conducted a national search for the alliance’s chief executive in 2011, the year the ACA was formed.
Cartmell, a former president of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, took charge of the alliance in October 2011. She said then that she initially declined offers to join the ACA but reconsidered.
Funded by $30 million annually from the casinos, the alliance serves as the city’s chief marketing arm in a partnership with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency that oversees the Atlantic City Tourism District.
A New Jersey appeals court ruled this week that the alliance is a private organization not subject to the requirements of the state Open Public Records Act. John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, had filed a lawsuit asking the courts to declare the alliance a public agency. He sued in 2012 after the alliance denied his requests for copies of its employment contracts and other key documents related to its business dealings.
The alliance’s Form 990 is separate from the court battle. It gives the most complete public glimpse yet of the ACA’s finances and expenses. Cartmell, however, said the document is consistent with what the alliance has been saying all along about its financial structure.
“There are no surprises,” she said.
It shows the alliance did, indeed, receive $30 million in 2012 from the casinos as its main source of funding. An additional $2 million came from the CRDA to help fund a 3-D light show the alliance has been promoting at Boardwalk Hall.
The ACA is best known for developing the widely publicized “Do AC” advertising and marketing campaign launched last year. The splashy, multimedia publicity blitz showcases Atlantic City as an upscale tourist destination offering an array of nongambling attractions, in addition to the casino action. Altogether, the alliance spent $20 million on the “Do AC” campaign in 2012, Cartmell said.
According to the Form 990, another major ACA expense last year included $3.5 million largely for a series of public art installations around the city called “Artlantic.” State lawmakers representing Atlantic City have questioned why the alliance and CRDA have spent millions for art projects. They have argued the money could be used for more pressing needs in the city. In response, the alliance and CRDA have defended the art projects as tourist attractions.
The ACA and CRDA also have teamed up to fund 3-D light shows that use the sprawling facade of Boardwalk Hall as the backdrop. The alliance spent nearly $3.4 million for the light shows, the Form 990 shows.
Moment Factory, a Montreal-based company that created the 3-D show, was paid $1.2 million last year by the alliance, the form shows. Moment Factory was listed as the alliance’s highest-paid individual contractor in 2012. The company has continued to work on the 3-D light show, creating new themes every few months to keep the attraction fresh for tourists.
Fung Collaboratives LLC, the main creator of the Artlantic projects, was paid $655,904 last year for its work for the alliance, the Form 990 shows. Fung was listed as the second-highest compensated ACA contractor.
Another major expense in 2012 was a Fourth of July fireworks show staged in Atlantic City by the firm Fireworks by Grucci. The alliance paid Grucci $157,598 for the show, which was billed as the largest Independence Day fireworks display in New Jersey.
Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.)
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