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MoCo Strikes Back At D.C. Charity's Big Spending

Montgomery County has registered its outrage over the huge salary paid to the chief of the Food & Friends charity, which serves meals to AIDS and cancer patients throughout the Washington region.

The county has stripped Food & Friends of a $55,000 earmark that helped the group serve meals to Montgomery residents. The move is a protest against the $357,000 in salary and benefits that the charity gives to its executive director, Craig Shniderman, in the most recent year for which public records are available. Shniderman's pay more than doubled in less than a decade, putting him at a level well beyond that of most similarly-sized charities, according to compensation experts consulted by The Post.

The county council moved to delete the $55,000 from County Executive Ike Leggett's budget because "the Council was concerned about excessive compensation provided to the organization's executive director," said council member George Leventhal (D-At Large).

In a previous job, as executive director of the Jewish Social Services Agency in Montgomery, Shniderman was sentenced to six months of home detention and 18 months of probation for taking almost $4,000 from the Jewish Community Center in Rockville. Shniderman was charged with taking items from the center's gift shop from 1987 to 1993 and with allowing the agency to be billed for phony consulting services. He pleaded guilty to misappropriation of funds. [UPDATE: The conviction was later expunged.]

Food & Friends responded to the council's move by saying its leaders were "saddened and puzzled.... What we have here is the recommendation that 8,000 specialized meals and nutrition counseling will not be funded by the Montgomery County government on the strength of Mr. Leventhal's personal objection to compensation determined after careful study by the board of directors of Food & Friends," wrote Robert Hall III, the charity's board president.

The charity says Shniderman's pay was determined in consultation with an independent consultant and remained flat this year because of the recession.

It's rare indeed for local governments to devote any oversight energy to checking out the quality and activities of the non-profits that get all manner of earmarks, so this is a most welcome move by the MoCo council. Food & Friends by all accounts does much-needed work and does it well, but that's no excuse for running a charity as if it were a fancy for-profit business.




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By Marc Fisher |  May 18, 2009; 8:05 AM ET  | Category:  Charities , Montgomery County
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Comments

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The San Francisco Food Bank's 2008 report indicates that it spent $265,832 in total, on "Management and General" expenses, or 0.5% of its funding, while it distributed 31 million pounds of food. That's less spending on the whole SFFB staff than Shniderman was paid. Absolutely disgraceful!
There are on-line sites that evaluate charities, and most charities post their annual statements. People (and government grant offices) shoud check these out before making contributions.

Posted by: JBV1 | May 18, 2009 4:15 PM

Last time I volunteer for that organization....

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | May 18, 2009 6:42 PM

Is there ever any accountability or consequence for bad behavior? Shniderman's "record" of disservice and dishonor should have been enough to keep him from EVER being hired!

Another sad example of failing UPWARD!

Posted by: suec716 | May 19, 2009 5:56 AM

Great column Marc. Thank you.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | May 19, 2009 6:34 AM

Are you kidding me? This guy runs a first rate charity and has for many years. He is responsible for growing Food & Friends from a tiny church basement operation to a regional organization which serves millions of meals a year and has over 13,000 volunteers. They have to raise close to 9 million dollars every year. It is a four star rated Charity Navigator organization which means its cost of fundraising and administrative overhead has been carefully reviewed and given a thumbs up! It is probably one of the only organizations to have actually INCREASED services and INCREASED volunteers in this terrible climate and it is in no small part due to Shniderman's careful management. Why is this guy getting singled out when he is only doing the job he gets paid for and he is doing it WELL?

Posted by: artnow235 | May 19, 2009 8:41 AM

I think his salary is somewhat out of line, but I'm not sure what the "and benefits" portion of the 357k might be.

I'd simply like to know how much of that goes to medical insurance, 401k, pension, and legit expense account money to schmooze potential donors or attend necessary events.

What's his real salary? And what are the benefits? Often the bennies are equal to a large percentage of any employee's salary. Not taking sides here. Just would like to know.

Posted by: observer9 | May 19, 2009 9:58 AM

The truth is that this budget reduction will come out of the program services. Fewer people will get meals, and the chief's pay will remain the same. It's the ugly truth of large non-profits. No doubt he has a contract with a specified escalation clause for every year he stays. Unless he requests a reduction in salary, it ain't happening.

Posted by: dukebdc | May 19, 2009 1:13 PM

As someone who has both volunteered and donated to F&F in the past, I will continue to volunteer, but I may reconsider my donations. I certainly think the cause is worthwhile and I respect the work that Mr. Shniderman has done, but more than 100% increase in less than 10 years is excessive. And this is hardly the first time that his pay has come under public scrutiny and outrage. Doesn't F&F realize what a signal this sends?

As for comparable organizations, his compensation is out of line. From another source (that was quoting an earlier WaPo article), Shniderman makes about $357K (although some sources reported his 2008 income was $382K) and F&F has a budget of about $8.2M.

From an on-line blog at (http://forums.poz.com/index.php?topic=22118.0)
"With respect to comparable agencies, the Post article mentions the salaries and benefits of the Capital Area Food Bank ($127,756: budget $33 m); Bread for the City ($102,627; $3.9 million budget); D.C. Central Kitchen ($81,457; $6.7 million budget); Whitman-Walker Clinic ($169,524; $22 million budget). I checked the Form 990 for Moveable Feast in Baltimore and the former Executive Director reported total compensation in 2006 of approximately $107,457. If I read the Moveable Feast form correctly, it had gross revenues of approximately $2 million in 2006."

Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 19, 2009 3:28 PM

You cannot really compare a 2 million organization with a 9 million dollar one unless you say one that is 4 times as big doesn't actually pay 4 times more - Shniderman makes less than four times the $107,457 salary reported for Moveable Feast yet has a budget 4 times as big. Whitman Walker has been all over the news for how unbelievably poorly managed an operation they are so I would have to say that you get what you pay for. So much so, the DC County ouncil has really been taking off on them. As it was explained to me, ALL of the benefits, like family health care, are included in the salary therby driving up his salary That is NOT the case for most of us when we talk about our salaries. And he did, in fact, take a voluntary reduction in his salary this year - but of course that never gets mentioned. I have been a donor and a volunteer here for many years and when I wrote and complained to the montgomery County Council about this Phil Andrews actually responded by saying the county needs to save its funds to care for the most vulnerable people - does he not think AIDS patients and breast caner patients are vulnerable? I could not believe he actually wrote that.

Posted by: artnow235 | May 19, 2009 5:34 PM

The apparent intent of Mr. Fisher not to report but to intentionally cast a negative light is revealed by the day late addition of the fact of expungement. There was no relevance to the mention to begin with, but ignoring the expungement --which is to legally erase the existence of the event -- is reckless and mean-spirited.

Posted by: capcityman1 | May 20, 2009 6:03 AM

There's a lot of difference between expungement of a criminal record and "eras[ing] the existence" of an event. That the event occurred at all gives some insight into Shniderman's character.

Posted by: JBV1 | May 20, 2009 4:31 PM

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