International Storytelling Center refuses to disclose director’s salary

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 12, 2013 at 2:38 PM

The board of governors of the nonprofit International Storytelling Center organization have refused to disclose the salary of the ISC’s newly hired executive director.

ISC board member Terry Countermine, who is also a Jonesborough alderman, said Wednesday he was not sure a salary figure quoted to him by an ISC staff member is accurate but will learn the exact figure today at an all-day strategic planning session to be held with Executive Director Kiran Singh Sirah, who began work at the ISC in August.

Countermine said he would suggest at that meeting that Dr. Bill Kennedy, who serves as chairman of the ISC board, make the figure public.

Kennedy has refused to disclose Sirah’s salary to the Jonesborough Herald and Tribune and did not return phone messages requesting his comments left by the Johnson City Press on Wednesday.

ISC board member Jim Reel refused to comment on Sirah’s salary Wednesday and referred this newspaper to Kennedy.

Sirah told the Press he does not wish to make his salary public. “It’s not something I want to reveal. I’m new to this area and I don’t want to walk around with a figure on my head,” Sirah said, “I don’t think anyone who is new in town should have to reveal their salary.”

Countermine said the new director’s salary was a negotiable consideration in the search process and he was not a party to the negotiations with Sirah.

“We had several candidates who did have a salary they would take. Some of them set that minimum at more than we could pay,” Countermine said. “I wasn’t part of the negotiations and honestly I don’t know what his salary is. I think I know. I was told a figure by someone but I’m not sure that’s accurate. I will find out tomorrow.”

Countermine said he was aware the ISC’s former executive director Jimmy Neil Smith took a voluntary cut in pay during the ISC’s financial difficulties and subsequent bankruptcy proceedings in 2011 and 2012.

Smith, who founded the storytelling organization and was named President Emeritus of the ISC following his retirement late last year, confirmed his salary was reduced approximately $25,000 in 2011.

Smith said all of the ISC staff, except for the lowest paid employees, took voluntary reductions in pay during that time period. “Most took 10 percent (less),” he said. “The staff all gave personally and financially to do all we could to allow the ISC to survive.”

IRS tax forms available online show Smith’s salary fell from $89,028 in 2010 to $59,844 in 2011.

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