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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