Authorities’ big bonuses mock the public

Authorities’ big bonuses mock the public

What is it with public authorities awarding handsome, if not extravagant, bonuses in these coronavirus pandemic times?

You’ll recall that Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis was paid a whopping $164,250 bonus in January for her work in 2019.

Not only were the optics bad – in a time of struggles for so many businesses and employees precipitated by arbitrary and capricious government edicts – the bonus was awarded for a year of several high-profile failures, i.e. paying airlines to fly in and out of Pittsburgh International Airport.

A few of those airlines quickly went belly-up. Such a failure of due diligence certainly was not worthy of a bonus.

At least the Airport Authority, citing the pandemic, had the common sense to not award Cassotis a bonus for 2020. But still.

And now word comes that another authority boss – the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s Katharine Kelleman – will be paid a bonus of $21,908.

More bad optics, indeed, for many of the same reasons noted above. But it’s also a bonus being paid as the mass-transit agency’s ridership tanked because of the pandemic by 80 percent. It remains 60 percent below year-ago levels.

Now, there’s little relationship between the pandemic-induced decline and Kelleman’s stewardship. But, still, what a poor message to send at a time when taxpayers have bailed out the authority.

If anything, Kelleman and Cassotis, already quite handsomely compensated for their positions at $230,000 and $410,220, respectively, should have sent a positive message and declined such bonuses.

That they did not more than suggests a public-be-damned attitude that disserves sound public policy.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).