Jarrett Barrios Must Quit Being So Cagey About GLAAD’s Secretive Operations

One thing Gay Inc. groups are so often criticized for is their lack of transparency. Like when the Human Rights Campaign kept telling supporters last year it had worked out a “road map” to equality with Obama, but refused to tell anyone what it looked like. (And when HRC did share some details? They were vague and uninspiring.) And now GLAAD adds another float to the secrets parade, with chief Jarrett Barrios refusing to tell anyone how much he makes.

Barrios earns an estimated $200-250,000 a year at GLAAD, based on some napkin math, but not official figures. Taking over the gig in September, Barrios will say he lopped 10-15 percent off his predecessor Neil Giuliano’s salary, which also amounts to a pay cut from his previous gig as president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, where he earned more than a half million dollars when health benefits are factored in. (Indeed, earning less sometimes happens when you go into non-profit!) But until GLAAD files its annual 990 tax form, required of 501(3)(c) groups, he’s keeping mum on how much GLAAD is paying him; supposedly it’s because the organization might reimburse him for expenses, and he doesn’t want to give a false figure until that’s finalized.

Which is a farce. Barrios has a contract, as any organization president does, stipulating how much is earned in base salary, what the benefits structure looks like, and even how much cash will be allowed for travel and per diem expenses. (Barrios says he takes the bus and flies coach.) These details can, and should, be made available to supporters. But they won’t be, because executive pay is often viewed as proprietary data — a phenomenon rooted in corporations, not non-profits.

But as the Bay Area Reporter notes, it’s more than salary about which GLAAD remains untalkative.

When it comes to the behind-the-scenes berating GLAAD does with Hollywood executives, news media professionals, or advertisers, Barrios deliberately picks and chooses which actions the agency has taken that are then revealed to its members and the public. Oftentimes GLAAD will not reveal its involvement with a particular anti-gay incident in the media because it has received a satisfactory response from the offending news outlet or entertainment property, explained Barrios.

“I think if we were an organization more focused on grandstanding about our impact, we might send out an e-mail every time we made a phone call to a network. But our job is to have an impact and that means having productive conversations with individuals,” he said. “When we don’t have change, we ask our members to take action. If we go to the well every time and ask people to call, e-mail, and write five times a day it would be like the boy who cried wolf. People won’t respond. “Even the most dedicated activists will lose interest,” he added. “They will just press delete.”

But there is a difference between oversaturation and transparency. GLAAD needn’t issue a press release every time it makes a move. But what about a blog post? A tweet? Just to tell donors and supporters what they’re working on? And to indicate what, in fact, they are not working on — which is a growing concern among GLAAD’s supporters, who see them playing bizarre games of criticism, often ignoring or going lighter on entertainment companies that underwrite a nice portion of what BAR says is an $8 million annual budget, while freely attacking those without deeper pockets to defend themselves.

Activist groups do not inspire trust and good will when they actively work — as Barrios is doing by dodging questions — to make their operations appear shadowy and secretive. Barrios isn’t refusing to name his salary because some anti-gay group could exploit that information. He refuses to disclose his salary because you might think he gets paid too much. And it’s a fool’s mistake to think that just because we’re talking about non-profits, money isn’t somehow a factor.

[BAR, Petrelis]