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Nonprofit admits it pays five in 6 figures

The nonprofit Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, which oversees the parkland in downtown Boston with significant financial help from the state, pays its executive director an annual salary of $185,000, according to records revealed only under pressure from state officials this week.

The conservancy - which has been seeking a new, voluntary tax from surrounding businesses - pays five officials, including the executive director, six-figure salaries, records show.

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The other four executives are Steve Anderson, director of park operations, at $111,437; Linda Jonash, director of planning and design, $101,614; Jesse Brackenbury, director of business operations, $137,456; and Jodi Wolin, director of development, $117,000.

The spending patterns of the nonprofit became an issue this week, when the Boston Herald reported that executive director Nancy Brennan declined to reveal salaries for herself or her staff.

Initially, Brennan had reached out to her public relations consultant, erroneously sending an e-mail intended for her to the Herald reporter, asking whether she should ignore the question, reply, or respond after deadline, the Herald reported this week.

‘We have a policy of transparency at the conservancy, so we’re a little surprised at all this.’

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Brennan did not return a call seeking comment last night.

The conservancy is a private nonprofit created in partnership with the state and city to manage the parkland created when the Central Artery was submerged as the Big Dig. Though the conservancy was formed to manage the park without public funding, it relies heavily on the state for help. About half of the Greenway’s $4.7 million budget comes from the state Department of Transportation, the largest single contributor to the Greenway.

As a result, Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey requested detailed financial information in a letter sent to Brennan Wednesday, demanding all financial statements, quarterly reports, and salaries, as well as other sources of income.

A spokeswoman for Davey said last night that the office has received the records, but Davey has not yet seen them.

A 2008 state law required the state to fund half of the conservancy’s annual budget, up to $5.5 million. The state is kicking in $2.1 million in cash and in-kind contributions under the current terms. State officials are currently reviewing the terms of the deal.

State Representative Aaron M. Michlewitz, a Democrat from the North End, has filed a bill pending in the Legislature that would cap the state allocation at $4 million and add oversight mechanisms to the conservancy’s operations.

He declined to comment on Brennan’s salary last night, but said she has done well in the job. He said he believes the state should continue to provide funding.

“I believe in the public-private partnership,’’ he said.

The conservancy has also been trying to boost its revenue through a business improvement district, an arrangement that would create a voluntary tax on businesses that abut the park to raise more money and provide other park amenities. But business owners were already balking at that plan proposal, even before questions were raised about the allocation of the conservancy’s budget.

“We have a policy of transparency at the conservancy, so we’re a little surprised at all this,’’ said Georgia Murray, chairwoman of the conservancy’s board. “Everybody has the right to ask questions. We’re trying very much to be open.’’

Murray said that as a nonprofit, the group is not subject to the same public records rules, but posts its audits and tax information on its website.

Murray also defended the spending and the salaries, saying that the conservancy studied other nonprofits and parks organizations before awarding Brennan a $20,000 raise in July.

“They are not too high,’’ she said of the staff salaries. “Nancy is adequately paid, but not highly paid.’’

Ebbert can be reached at ebbert@globe.com; Andersen at tandersen@globe.com.

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