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Salary of convention center director shouldn’t automatically go up

The Massachusetts convention center is on its way to growing bigger — but executive director Jim Rooney’s salary shouldn’t automatically grow along with it.

Rooney, a former chief of staff to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, recently persuaded state lawmakers to authorize the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to borrow $1 billion to expand the convention center by 1.3 million square feet. It was an important victory for the authority, and should enable the city to host ever-larger conventions. It came just before Rooney’s contract ran out on June 30. Now he’s negotiating a new one.

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But simply extracting more money from the Legislature shouldn’t be justification for a pay increase. The state and independent authorities should reward managers for saving taxpayer money, not merely spending it. And in pushing for an expansion that many felt was unnecessary, Rooney promised that the state would benefit greatly from hosting larger conventions, including those of biotech and information technology entrepreneurs, which would help attract more business to Massachusetts.

Admittedly, the promotional benefits of hosting large conventions can be hard to quantify; but the authority should tie any additional salary or bonuses for Rooney to his ability to meet the benchmarks that he himself outlined in presenting his case to the Legislature. It would be an important demonstration of accountability for a quasi-public administrator.

In no case would Rooney end up being underpaid. According to spokeswoman Katie Hauser, he received a base salary of $257,524.80 and a $25,752.48 bonus last year. On top of that, he collects a $68,000 annual pension from the MBTA, which he has been receiving since he retired from the T at age 41.

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