Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

GLAAD prez refuses to disclose salary


Jarrett T. Barrios. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Jarrett T. Barrios began work as president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation September 7, 2009. Nearly eight months into the job, what Barrios is earning at the helm of the LGBT media watchdog agency with a budget of $8 million remains a mystery to the public.

During his first interview with the Bay Area Reporter since being hired, Barrios last week declined to disclose the actual amount of his compensation.

He did boast that he had reduced his salary between 10 percent and 15 percent and "took a big pay cut to come work for GLAAD." He also noted he takes the bus, flies coach, and "I don't take per diem reimbursements."

But when pressed on what the nonprofit's board set his salary at, rumored to be between $300,000 and $350,000, Barrios said he was not obligated to disclose the figure.

"What is my salary at? That is actually not public information," said Barrios, 40, a former Massachusetts state lawmaker. "I will tell you I decreased my salary when I got there by about 15 percent, 10 percent."

As a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, GLAAD is required to disclose how much it pays its top employees in its federal tax return, known as a 990. All nonprofits are required to release their 990 forms to the public.

The most recent forms, however, are usually one to two years old, and most organizations will disclose the salary of their executive director when asked. It is the B.A.R.'s policy to ask for the compensation of all newly hired leaders of LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations.

 Barrios said he would not disclose his salary information prior to the filing of the agency's 2009 tax forms, which he said would be done May 15, because the number may not be fully accurate as he is reimbursed for certain expenses and the final total would be reflected on the tax return. The figure, however, would only be for the nearly four months he worked at GLAAD last year and not his full yearly salary.

"It is like asking someone to tell you what their income is before they have done their taxes," said Barrios. "When I am ready to file our 990, our tax form, that will all be public."

In 2008 GLAAD paid its previous president, Neil Guiliano, $238,003, when its total revenue for the year was $14 million. With his benefits added in, Guiliano's total compensation was $245,373. The figure was a decrease from what he had earned in 2007, when GLAAD paid him $271,034 in pay and benefits and only pulled in $7.1 million in revenues.

GLAAD spokesman Richard Ferraro would only say that Barrios's salary is less than what Guiliano made in 2007.

Prior to taking over as GLAAD president, Barrios served as president of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. He received $486,867 in salary alone in 2008 while working at the health care nonprofit. With benefits and expenses added, his total compensation was $576,366.

Last fall Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco gay activist and blogger, criticized GLAAD and Barrios for not revealing his salary. In his interview with the B.A.R., Barrios suggested that the majority of GLAAD's donors are not concerned with knowing his compensation figure until the agency releases its annual report.

"It is something our donors, when they read our annual report – which is when they would normally do this – they will understand, they will be able to get all the answers," said Barrios. "It is just not public yet."

Action alerts paint partial picture

His salary is not the only information about his job that Barrios refuses to disclose. 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."

As one example, the agency has been outspoken about its concerns with the independent film Ticked Off Trannies with Knives but has been more circumspect publicly about its reaction to the use of the word "she-male" in the second season premiere of Fox's television hit Glee, which just days later won a GLAAD Media Award for its first season that aired in 2009.

Transgender activists and their allies have criticized both the film, for its depictions of transgender people and using the term "trannies," and the television show, for not only using the slur in the episode but also in promos for it.

GLAAD's public reactions to both have played into its critics' denunciations that it oftentimes goes after filmmakers with little clout while giving a pass to major Hollywood studios who are donors to the agency or whose stars are the key draw at its major fundraising events. While the Glee episode already aired and was seen in millions of American households, it is questionable just how many people will see the Ticked Off movie.

So far it has played at film festivals and would likely have received little mainstream attention. But once GLAAD sent out a media alert and made the movie controversy a cause celeb, it has been widely covered by LGBT media and the entertainment press.

Barrios said that rather than having concerns about the use of one word, as with the Glee episode, GLAAD has profound issues with the entire movie that requires more involvement in working with its director. As for Glee, Barrios suggested all it took was one phone call for the shows' creators to understand why it had caused such a negative reaction within the LGBT community.

Therefore, he said there was no need to alert its members to contact Fox or the show. Nor did the public questioning of why GLAAD did not send out an action alert about the Glee episode warrant a public response, said Barrios.

"The organization that I lead, GLAAD, is focused on changing the way gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are understood in America. We do that in a very specific way working with and through the media," said Barrios. "Sometimes that means we have conversations with the media where other people are raising questions where there may be a perception we are not doing anything."

He said he is willing to live with that "price of being activists" at a time when bloggers and others online are quick to judge GLAAD and its work.

"There will always be people who don't have all the information willing to cast judgment. We stand by our results and we have a long record of results achieving full equality for the LGBT community," said Barrios. "We don't do it through lobbying. We don't do it through the courts. We do it through media."

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