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Greenway conservancy told to fund itself

Nonprofit tends to state parkland

In a stern letter, state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey told officials at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy yesterday that they should plan to operate without any government money by the end of the decade.

“I believe it is prudent for the conservancy to begin to wean itself off government support,’’ Davey wrote.

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The conservancy, a nonprofit that maintains the state-owned parkland over the Central Artery in downtown Boston, was “intended to be a self-sustaining entity with the ability to raise private funds,’’ Davey wrote.

However, the conservancy relies on the state to cover nearly half its $4.7 million budget and recently came under fire for declining to release details of the salary of its executive director, Nancy Brennan, whose $20,000 raise last year boosted her annual salary to $185,000.

Brennan has said she deserves her salary. Her contract says she could have been given a bonus of up to half her salary every year.

In an e-mail to the Globe, Brennan wrote that “Davey raises important and fundamental issues about how the Rose Kennedy Greenway will be financed and continue on its path to be a great public space.’’

She said the decision for the state to share about half the costs of maintaining the Greenway was “the subject of years of discussion and debate’’ in the Legislature.

“We continue to believe in the public-private partnership, based on the fact that the conservancy has raised $18.2 million to supplement public funding of $14.1 million since the conservancy’s inception in 2005,’’ she wrote.

In his letter, Davey urged the conservancy to be more responsive to public inquiries.

“I believe we all have an obligation to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible with the public when taxpayer dollars are involved,’’ he wrote.

Davey told Brennan he would require her to accept three conditions before he approved a new five-year lease for the conservancy to maintain the Greenway.

He said the conservancy would have to abide by the state’s open meeting laws and Freedom of Information Act requests; agree to an independent review of the compensation of senior staff; and submit a plan for the conservancy being “entirely self-sufficient’’ by the lease’s last year.

Brennan has said the state’s contribution has dropped, and the conservancy needs more money to accomplish its mission.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.
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