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City's economic development chief's salary bumped to $203K

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The city’s economic development organization voted Thursday to increase by 45.3% the annual base salary of its executive director.

In two actions following roughly a 37-minute executive session, PartnerTulsa (the rebranded Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity) raised the salary of Kian Kamas from $140,000 to $203,520, awarding her an additional $52,000 for a pay bump retroactive to the past fiscal year.

Kamas had asked for a $60,000 performance bonus and a new base salary of $200,000 a year, according to a document obtained by the Tulsa World.

The city’s former chief of economic development, she was named executive director of the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity last year with an annual base salary of $140,000.

On Thursday, the board retroactively increased her salary for the 2021-22 fiscal year to $192,000, agreeing to have the $52,000 balance paid to her in a lump sum no later than Aug. 15. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, which started July 1, trustees bumped her base salary 6% to $203,520.

Established a year ago to streamline the city’s economic and community development efforts, the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity effectively combined five public organizations into one. An independent public trust whose beneficiary is the city of Tulsa, it operates under a service agreement with the city and is funded from revenue generated by a variety of public assets and grants.

For its first year, the organization reported a net income position of $11,096,892, an increase of about 23%, Controller Mike Dickerson said Thursday.

“The board felt this was a salary level appropriate for the executive director of a public entity with a proven track record of coordinating significant private sector investment,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, who chairs the group’s board, said in a statement. “There are many important stakeholders who help Tulsa achieve the economic success we’ve seen over the last several years, and TAEO plays an important part in that broader team.”

Kamas’ amended contract also allows TAEO’s trustees to award her a discretionary performance incentive for fiscal year ‘22-’23.

“Over the past five years, I have had the honor of playing a role in Tulsa’s economic growth and the transformation of the organizational structures that help to guide and accelerate this growth,” Kamas said in a statement.

“Forming TAEO and PartnerTulsa has placed Tulsa at the forefront of innovation of how cities manage economic and community development, and this unique model will provide critical resources to support the city’s efforts long-term.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue to serve as the executive director and to work alongside the PartnerTulsa and City of Tulsa teams as we seek to increase economic opportunity in Tulsa.”

In a May memorandum to the personnel committee, she made her case for the bonus and salary increase, noting that her three-year agreement stipulates that her base salary be reviewed annually and potentially increased based on her performance.

“When negotiating my initial employment contract, I deliberately established my base salary at a level that would (1) ensure TAEO could launch with a balanced inaugural budget during challenging and uncertain economic conditions, and (2) the organization could advance employee pay across all other staff positions in order to ensure we could attract and retain talent critical to supporting execution of the Executive Director’s and Board’s vision,” Kamas wrote.

“As such, the salary established in my initial contract was set at a range far below that of my peers in similar — largely smaller — organizations.”

According to Kamas, similar positions in Tulsa and Oklahoma City — including those at the Tulsa Regional Chamber and those funded by nonprofits — pay a base salary ranging from $200,000 to $305,000. The Tulsa World was unable to independently verify the salaries referenced in Kamas’ memorandum.

Featured video: Tulsa 2021 annual report highlights from Mayor G.T. Bynum


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