Councilman questions salary for Balboa Park centennial group CEO

New transition director paid $13,000 a month

SAN DIEGO - San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez on Wednesday will formally ask for an update on the now defunct Balboa Park centennial group. The nonprofit announced several weeks ago it was closing its doors and transferring operations to the city. 

The group was given nearly $3 million of taxpayer money to throw a yearlong celebration in Balboa Park. 10News has learned the group is now paying a transition director $13,000 a month to handle every aspect of the handover. 

Gerry Braun was paid $8,000 a month as the group's communications consultant. His new three-month contract says he must turn over everything to the city by May 31. 

Alvarez questions Braun's salary. He sent 10News the following statement Tuesday evening. 

"I have not been provided any information, specifically regarding the extremely high payment made to the CEO during this transitionary period. This lack of transparency and accountability is the reason why I am asking for an update to be provided by the mayor's office and any board members at my committee tomorrow." 

Alvarez sent a letter to the board members last week asking that they attend a meeting of the city's environmental committee, but two said they were busy and the other five did not respond.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit's board is defending Braun's role and his salary. 

"Mr. Braun is shouldering enormous responsibility in ensuring an efficient and legal wind-down of a California nonprofit corporation, and completing the proper transfer of our records to the city's satisfaction. Fundamentally, this is a dead-end job, and one he is performing admirably under intense scrutiny, internally and externally. In just two weeks, Mr. Braun has already saved BPCI more money than he'll be paid. We think we're getting a good deal," said Ben Clay, the co-chair of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. 

Braun declined an on camera interview, but also sent 10News the following statement:

"My goal is to help the city succeed where BPCI could not. San Diegans love Balboa Park and deserve a celebration worthy of this great civic treasure."

Meanwhile on Tuesday evening, a group of arts preservationists held a meeting at Balboa Park to come up with ideas for the celebration. 

"We are looking at this as a door that's opened for us to help the city figure out what we can do in nine months from now to give honor to this park that we all love so much," said Marianne Gerdes. 

Gerdes said her group will approach the city soon to see if it can help plan the celebration.

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