SDSU’s big birdies’ tab

High-dollar public employees at KPBS

Some might say Tom Karlo earns his $309,883 salary — after all, he went to Washington on a lobbying mission. But local House rep Duncan Hunter’s office was closed...
  • Some might say Tom Karlo earns his $309,883 salary — after all, he went to Washington on a lobbying mission. But local House rep Duncan Hunter’s office was closed...

San Diego State University, its future clouded by a brewing fight for control of Mission Valley’s Qualcomm Stadium site, along with the imminent departure of president Elliot Hirshman for greener financial pastures at Maryland’s Stevenson University, is also worried about funding its public broadcasting empire in the era of president Donald Trump.

“We are a critical part of our community here in San Diego, and any cut in federal funding would damage that,” KPBS general manager Tom Karlo was quoted as saying in a March 18 Union-Tribune account, which added that Karlo had gone all the way to Washington to lobby Congress against the president’s proposal to zero out funding for the federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Of his attempt to hit up Republican House member Duncan Hunter, Karlo complained, “It was 1:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday and the door was locked.”

The paper said that in fiscal year 2016 KPBS got about $3.2 million in federal funds, with additional cash being had from “contributions by about 55,000 families, annually bringing in $8 million to $9 million, and corporate donors who supply about another $5 million a year.”

But the U-T failed to mention the KPBS tab picked up each year by California taxpayers in the form of the SDSU operation’s six-figure salary and benefit packages, including Karlo’s cool $309,883. That was way up from the $215,262 in total compensation that the KPBS honcho received back in 2011.

Other SDSU costs for the stations have been rising as well. “Direct financial support received from the University for the years ended June 30, 2016 and 2015 was approximately $2,211,000 and $2,170,000, respectively, and consisted primarily of salaries for management, space rental and utilities,” says the latest KPBS annual financial report, dated last November 22. An additional $5,823,856 was spent by SDSU for KPBS in so-called indirect funding, which the audit says “relates to a portion of the University’s general overhead costs that directly benefit the programs of the Stations. Such items are allocated based upon square footage percentage or prorated costs including administration, maintenance and repairs.”

Besides Karlo, other high-dollar public employees at KPBS, per 2015 State of California pay data posted online by nonprofit Transparent California, include station manager Deanna M Mackey, $199,553, and associate general manager Trina Hester, $182,290.

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So why do they need a "general manager" AND a "station manager" at KPBS? What exactly do each of them DO all day to earn those 6-figure salaries? The station has some splainin' to do, to justify paying that much money to Karlo and Mackey. Where's the transparency?

The general manger oversees all of the TV station and is responsible for every aspect of the operation of the station, while a station manager is the chief operating officer. Every TV station has both. Tom Karlo has been in San Diego TV for decades, Deanna Mackey has been at KPBS for twenty years. Both are SDSU grads.

Unbelievable salaries. And those are just the top ones. There are lots more.

Wondering how a guy getting a salary like that doesn't realize how to meet up with his San Diego reps. They have local offices, and he just has to get in his car and drive over. Junket, pure and simple.

Or he could have called ahead to make sure the under-federal-investigation Hunter would be in his DC office. Something sounds fishy.

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