United Way donations help local people, not pad pockets,

PLATTSBURGH - The story of scandal involving the salary of the former executive director of the United Way of Central Carolinas may be more than a year old, but it's now beginning to have a ripple effect in the North Country.

John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc., said it has come to his attention a story which aired on CBS News Nov. 19 titled "Recession-Proof Job? Non-Profit CEO," has raised concerns locally about charitable giving. In the report, the controversial salary of former Charlotte, N.C., United Way executive director Gloria Pace King was referenced, highlighting how King pulled in a $380,000 salary and $2.1 million retirement package.

"This is a story that's resurfaced from June 2008," said Bernardi. "It looks like [CBS News] was doing a story on charitable giving and just pulled this up as an example."

Recently, Kirk A. Stallsmith, vice president of the local United Way's board of directors, learned of concerns regarding making donations to the organization from employees of Georgia-Pacific in Plattsburgh, where Stallsmith serves as general manager.

Several employees had seen or learned of the CBS News report and mentioned they wouldn't participate in donating to the United Way campaign as a result. Stallsmith immediately responded to the concerns by issuing a company-wide e-mail which clarified several key points in the news report.

"People need to be cautious when they read or hear something on the news and not draw broad assumptions," said Stallsmith. "It was clear by reading the CBS report that there was a branch of the United Way and a few select other charitable organizations where perhaps the board and the leadership of the organization lost track of their ultimate mission."

Stallsmith also noted there are "vast differences in the size and scope of charitable groups depending on the population base they are serving."

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