Charlotte United Way campaign falls short over pay fight

Some local charity leaders say they long suspected United Way CEO Gloria Pace King might be overpaid, but didn't say so openly for fear of angering her or bringing bad publicity on the agency.

On Tuesday, they broke their silence as the chairman for United Way of Central Carolinas apologized for King's controversial $2.1 million pension and hinted at sweeping changes in how the organization oversees its money and its chief executive.

Leaders among the 90 or so charities that depend on United Way for money had hesitated to air their concerns in public, fearing a salary scandal would harm fundraising.

Their fears have become reality: The United Way ended its annual campaign last month $20 million shy of its 2007 total, largely due to donor anger over King's pay.

Now the charities feel trapped by the fallout, facing big cuts in their budgets during what some economists are calling the deepest economic downturn in decades.

“If the economy were different, the community's memory (of the scandal) might be shorter,” said Julia Sain, executive director of Disability Rights & Resources. “But with the economy as bad as it is, the memory will be longer and tougher to overcome. Yet the need is so great.”

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