Tampa International Executive Director Joe Lopano
Tampa, Florida -- How would do you feel about a 20 percent raise? While you might like getting it, your attitude might change if you found out it went to someone else with public money.
That's what is happening with Tampa Airport Director Joe Lopano, who is receiving a $50,000 raise.
On Thursday the Hillsborough Aviation Authority tore up Lopano's contract and increased his pay from $250,000 a year to $300,000. With benefits, Lopano's package comes to around $350,000.
We asked Lopano what he says to the guy at home that is struggling or doesn't have a job, and Lopano said, "The support of my board has been quite remarkable."
About the only comment Lopano had about the $50,000 raise was about the board. When we was asked about the fact he had a deal to run the airport for $250,000 and no one put a gun to his head to accept that, once again Lopano said, "I appreciate my board."
We reminded Lopano that he turned down the raise just three months ago because of the bad economic conditions, and asked what changed since then. That was when his six figure communication director ended the interview.
To put the $50,000 raise in perspective, keep in mind it is more than the median household income in Tampa Bay. The raise means Lopano's salary is also twice the governor's salary, although current millionaire Governor Rick Scott is just accepting a $1 a year.
Lopano now makes twice as much as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, more than St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, more than Administrator Mike Merrill receives to run Hillsborough County, and more than Bob Lasala is paid to run Pinellas.
However, Aviation Board Chair Steve Burton says, "He should be paid more based on the marketplace."
The board voted 3-2 on the raise. The two elected officials -- Buckhorn and Hillsborough Commissioner Victor Crist -- voted no, but the fiscally conservative gubernatorial Republican appointees on the board apparently don't feel Lopano's salary is the place to be conservative with public dollars and voted yes.
The board also extended Lopano's contract by one year. Because it is a new contract, it will have to comply with a recently passed state law that limits severance pay to 20 weeks instead of a maximum of 18 months that was in Lopano's old contract.