RHA board makes needed fix in director's compensation

January 28, 2014 

Steve Beam, who heads the Raleigh Housing Authority, prides himself on being obsessive about documentation. That’s why he meticulously entered into a computer file his hours worked and comp time accrued. By his calculations, he was entitled to take more than 20 comp days a year from 2009 through 2011 in addition to his generous vacation package of up to six weeks. He used some of the paid time off to pursue his hobby as a card-trick magician.

But Beam’s biggest trick happened on the job when he transformed the long hours of a salaried chief executive into compensatory time usually afforded hourly employees. In the end, his calculations were right, but the result was wrong. An executive with a public agency who receives total compensation of more than $272,000 is obviously compensated well enough. There’s no room for compensatory time on top of it.

Beam’s generous pay and generous time off were the focus of recent stories by The N&O’s Colin Campbell. The stories also raised questions of what the RHA’s voluntary board was doing to oversee Beam, who became the agency’s director in 1997 after serving as financial director.

To its credit, the board has acted quickly to correct the situation. For the first time in his tenure, Beam did not receive a raise in his new contract, which also eliminates comp time. The contract, however, allows for “administrative leave” days to offset the time Beam spends attending weekend housing conferences and other events.

Beam is paid well, and he has performed well. Under his watch, the RHA has been efficient and effective in providing quality affordable housing and avoiding the turnover and mismanagement that are common troubles with housing agencies.

Beam’s mistake is that he logged the hours, but failed to do part of his role – leadership. You can’t lead if you’re not there. Leaders aren’t clock punchers. Their job is to set an example – a job without comp time.

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