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    Letters to the Editors

    Sweetheart deals for CEOs just don't seem right

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


    Re: Ex-utility CEO has $828,845 pension, March 31.

    If the St. Petersburg Times has it right, former Florida Progress CEO Richard Korpan snagged a sweetheart deal that got him $17.4-million in salary, bonus and severance pay last year. He also will receive an annual pension of $828,845 for the rest of his life. Not only that, but he also had a contract that gave him credit for 35 years of service at the utility even though he was only actually there since 1989. And there are even more goodies for Korpan.

    All of this seems to be tied into a Florida Power/Florida Progress merger with Carolina Power & Light. Also part of this merger deal, apparently, is the elimination of 800 jobs. I don't mean to single out Korpan. I'm sure his is not a unique case in big business; I seem to be reading about this sort of thing with sickening regularity.

    Am I the only one who sees this all-too-common scenario as just plain wrong? When these utilities hit customers with rate hikes, are these deals included in the "increased costs of operation" they say they have to pass on to the customer? Somebody's paying for them, and I'll bet the stockholders aren't being asked to absorb the cost of these deals with their dividends. Is there anyone out there protecting utility customers from this? Sweetheart deals for a few, while 800 jobs are eliminated and rates are raised -- it just doesn't pass my smell test. I'm sure if I asked these people how they sleep at night, they'd just reply "on the right side."
    Louis A. Claudio, Safety Harbor

    The outrage is there

    Re: Pursuit of lavish CEO compensation fails to register, March 30, Ex-utility CEO has $828,845 pension, March 31.

    Contrary to the theme of the first article, I believe the vast majority of people do care and are repulsed by the outrageous, and all too common, CEO pay packages now in vogue, i.e., $1-billion over 10 years for Sanford Weill of Citigroup. I can only imagine the thoughts of Citibanks customers and clients as some of them struggle to make their interest payments and fees to support that kind of pay package. How can they not be personally outraged by that kind of extremist capitalism? The lack of public outrage referred to in the first article is due primarily to people's frustration and inability to do anything about it other than write letters to the corporations involved or express their opinions in letters to the editor. Corporations are apparently insensitive to the issue or think people won't notice or really don't care.

    Newspapers, however, could do more. The Times does a better-than-average job of bringing these stories to the attention of the public, i.e., the March 31 article on Richard Korpan's final year's pay package of $17.4-million and his lifetime annual pension of $828,845 for a three year stint in the top job at Florida Progress.

    Perhaps the Times could do even more by providing a more practical and effective way for the people to express their outrage by inviting the Public Service Commission and the board of directors to share their views with the public on this subject. This is an extremely interesting example and has special implications because it involves a public utility that has a monopoly and is supposed to be regulated by a public body. If the compensation decisionmakers and the regulators don't accept the invitation and can't, or won't, justify the pay packages, then I would urge the Times to print their names and addresses so that members of the public can direct their opinions and questions to them directly. There is plenty of public outrage. They just need a little help expressing it to the appropriate people.
    -- John Farnham, St. Petersburg

    Corporate chiefs continue to prosper

    It's annual report season again and in spite of a shaky Dow, massive job cuts at large firms and experts contemplating the dreaded recession word, there's one thing that hasn't changed: the huge salaries and extravagant perks received by the top rung of the nation's corporate leaders.

    They keep getting richer and richer, regardless of their stocks' performance as their boards, made up of fellow executives, find ever more creative ways to bolster their already princely salaries.

    One of many examples, from a proxy statement that arrived recently, should suffice. The chairman and co-chief executive officer of a major firm with extensive ties in the Tampa Bay area has the following employee agreement: After he retires as a company employee in 2002, he will receive a consulting fee of $250,000 per month and will be provided office space and support as well as use of company aircraft and financial planning services.

    This arrangement will continue for two years. This executive's annual compensation for last year totaled nearly $4.2-million, his long-term compensation package for the year, mostly stocks and options, was nearly $1-million and he also received an additional $4.3-million as a merger-retention bonus.

    Say what you will about the obscene salaries of sports and rock stars, they are usually based on their performance. That isn't always the case with the corporate chieftains.
    -- Jim Lyman, Lutz

    Pay reaches insane levels

    I'm writing in response to the March 22 letter comparing baseball's greedy owners and players with schoolteachers (High level skills bring high pay).

    The writer tries to make the case that paying Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and other overpaid players is okay. He claims this is the "basic economics" he says we should "recognize and respect." Have we all gone crazy in this country?

    What is there to respect about guys getting $19-million and $25-million a year to play a kids' game and fans being gouged with exorbitant ticket prices to pay for it? If anybody ought to get that much, how about firefighters and police officers who risk their lives (and sometimes lose them)?

    High-level skills bring high pay, yes. But this isn't "high pay." This is insanity.
    -- Mark Crowe, Belleair Beach

    Reform looks like an erosion of rights

    The campaign finance reform bill that Sen. John McCain has fashioned as a remedy to a perceived problem in this country is a direct infringement on our First Amendment right to free speech.

    I agree there needs to be reform, so does President Bush. But at what cost would you have it? If by limiting hard-money contributions and banning soft-money contributions, as this bill attempts to do, the left seeks to obtain a level playing field, a sense of "fairness," a sense that the winner of a political campaign is somehow more legitimate, it will be doing so at a very high cost to you and me.

    Muzzling the candidate is in essence muzzling his constituency -- you and I, folks. Just because the time is bought and paid for doesn't mean the candidate is. It seems to me that our rights are being gradually chipped away, little by little so we don't to notice. I say take notice now, because even if it's bought and paid for, it's still "free" speech.
    -- Sarah Sherrill, St. Petersburg

    On the money, for once

    Re: The good with the bad, editorial, April 3.

    "Patently and irredeemably unconstitutional," "an unconscionable restriction on free speech," "misguided" and "undemocratic."

    Reading those words and the rest of the editorial about the McCain-Feingold bill left me flabbergasted. The Times had finally published an editorial about national policy that was on the money.

    I always heard that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then. Now I can believe it.
    Jim Carroll, Largo

    Fighting to keep sand is too costly

    Re: Cost of sandy beach may rise, March 27.

    This article about the need for more sand on our beaches sheds a little light on who is running this city. More important than "who" is "what information" they are using.

    The constant replenishing of beach sand contradicts the correct application of all of our scientific knowledge about beach ecosystems. We will never be able to stop putting sand on the beach if we must keep the hotels where they are. Beach ecosystems and barrier islands are not stagnant. They are moving, changing, evolving systems.

    However, all over the world we continue to try and stop nature. By directly battling the weather, wind and waves, we are wasting money. My money.

    I understand that tourism is our biggest industry, but the cost of keeping it going in its present state will soon outweigh the benefits. And I would be happy enough to let you dredge and fill to your heart's content every time a hurricane takes a couple yards of beach, but I do not want to pay out of my pocket for the city to be so reckless.

    Just like the people who lost their homes and lives in North Carolina during the floods, it is no one's fault but their own. They had put themselves in direct danger by living on a flood plain, so they should not expect the government to help them out of their own poor planning.

    As St. Petersburg residents build higher into the sky and closer to the edge of the water, they are putting more of their property at risk. And should the "big one" come and sweep it all away, as in North Carolina, they will receive neither funding nor sympathy from me.
    -- C. Cahli Carothers, St. Petersburg

    Deed restrictions are no secret

    Re: Deed restrictions rule out foster care, by Bill Maxwell, March 28.

    I have been a resident of Tamarac-By-The-Gulf since 1977. My husband and I selected this community because of the restrictions. The area was developed with the intent of creating a peaceful home for retirees whose children have been raised and have "left the nest."

    The restrictions were carefully explained to the purchaser and agreed to before the purchase and occupation of a home in Tamarac.

    I am sympathetic to the needs of these young children that the Burges want to shelter. However, ignorance of the bylaws is no excuse. It seems logical that anyone purchasing a home in a deed-restricted community would investigate the restrictions prior to finalizing the closing.

    My neighbors join me in protesting this situation.
    -- Lorraine Walther, Seminole

    Exceptions erode a community's rules

    Re: Deed restrictions rule out foster care.

    My heart goes out to Elena Burge. She is evidently a wonderful, caring person.

    However, homeowners who choose to live under these "oppressed" situations do so because of various reasons. After deciding that they would like to live in a community that has consistency, they look around to find one that has rules they feel comfortable with and then move into the area.

    The words, "can you make an exception" strike fear in the heart of every manager or board member responsible for the upkeep of a community.

    True, times change and rules are updated if warranted, but if the change is not made by Florida statute, homeowners have to vote for a revision.

    In a community that has restrictions, all owners are affected if one person wants to make a change. Why? Because an exception by one individual leads to a request by others and so on and on. Eventually, the concept of association living is no more.

    If people buy into a restricted community, they do so knowing what can and cannot be changed, and they need to come to terms with themselves that this is the type of lifestyle they initially chose to accept.
    -- Mary Jane Callihan, St. Petersburg

    Share your opinions

    Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by e-mail to letters@sptimes.com or by fax to (727) 893-8675.

    They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number.
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