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Big Salaries at Nashville's Convention, Visitors Bureau


By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter
It's a non-profit organization hired by Metro to promote the city and bring tourists to Nashville.
The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) has received more than $10 million from Metro in each of the last two years.
Despite receiving more than 80 percent of its overall budget from Metro, many Metro Council members have no idea how much the CVB pays its employees.
"That's really a shocking figure for me," said Councilman Phil Claiborne after we showed him the salaries for top employees at the CVB.

Councilman Claiborne represents the district that generates the largest amount of hotel – motel tax money.  Metro uses the tax to fund the CVB contract.
"I am surprised.  I had no idea what Butch or any of the other folks down there made," Claiborne said.
Butch Spyridon is the CVB president. Last year, he made more than $397,000.  That includes a $77,000 bonus.  He also gets a $40,000 SUV to drive home.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates reviewed the compensation packages at the CVB and discovered the top four employees made more than $925,000 last year.
Butch Spyridon made $397,043.  The Senior Vice President for Marketing, Deana Ivey, made $191,631.  The Senior Vice President for Sales, Kay Witt, made $183,506 and the CEO, Jeff Mefford, made $156,485.
"That's nearly 10 percent of the budget of $10 million, and that's a lot for the top four people to take away in terms of salary," said Councilman Claiborne.
But Claiborne was most surprised when we compared the Nashville CVB with one of the largest in the country.
Orlando Florida's CVB is six times Nashville's size with a budget of $69 million.
Despite its size, recent tax filings show that Spyridon out-earned his counterpart in Orlando by nearly $40,000.
"I think the council has a right to be concerned," said Councilman Claiborne.
The Chairman of the CVB Board of Directors, Robert Patterson, said in an interview earlier this year that they rely on consultants to help set salaries.
"The reality is, there are different business models for marketing cities like Orlando," Patterson said.
He says Spyridon's contract requires that he be in the top 25 percent of CVB presidents in the country.
"Paying somebody of Butch's caliber to administer basically an $11 million a year budget, to preserve $4 billion a year in revenue, strikes me as a good investment," Patterson said.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "He makes three times what the Mayor makes.  Is that appropriate?"
Patterson responded, "Frankly, I think the Mayor is grossly underpaid for what he does."
Patterson says the CVB's results in growing Nashville's tourism industry justify the salaries.
But Councilman Claiborne reviewed the CVB's tax filings and is concerned about administrative expenses he says are approaching 40 percent of the budget.
"How much more could they do if they were using some of those administrative dollars to promote the city even more, that's the real question," Claiborne said.
He says the CVB does a good job, but says it's likely council members will have questions for the organization when it's time to renew its contract with Metro.
"There will certainly be some folks in the council besides myself that would like to sit down and talk about those numbers," Claiborne said.


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