Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Business

Contentious raise for Tampa International Airport CEO back on the table

TAMPA — Three months ago, Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano turned down a $50,000 raise that would have upped his total compensation to what his previous job paid.

Now he appears ready to take it.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority will consider a raise Thursday, though how big is unclear. Board chairman Steve Burton is negotiating the details with Lopano, said TIA spokeswoman Janet Zink.

Burton favored a raise after Lopano had been on the job nine months. Two other members agreed.

But the only elected officials on the board — the three others are appointed by the governor — opposed a raise in October. County Commissioner Victor Crist and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it was too soon.

"Nine months is not enough time to make that kind of decision," Buckhorn said.

The mayor's position is unchanged. While he thinks Lopano is doing a great job, it's still too early for a raise, Buckhorn said. He favors waiting until later this year, after Lopano gets a second performance review in August.

"Over time he will earn every bit of it,'' he added.

Crist agreed. "I think he's an incredibly unique individual who's doing an incredibly great job,'' Crist said. "He's beating all expectations.'' But he would not consider a raise until Lopano's contract expires in two years, he said.

"To me, a contact is a contract,'' Crist said. "I believe it should have had incentive bonuses built into it and it didn't. … At this juncture I think it's premature to be talking about a raise.''

Still, he is open to extending Lopano's $3,000 monthly housing allowance, which expired Dec. 31, for 12 to 24 months, he said. That would help him get closer to his previous compensation, he said.

Lopano rejected a raise in October, citing tough economic times, though he said he would consider a bonus. Buckhorn and Crist opposed a bonus.

While it's unclear how big a salary adjustment Burton will propose, it will not be a bonus, Zink said.

Lopano earned a 4.8 rating out of a possible five in his August evaluations. He has earned high marks from board members for his drive and focus on economic development, particularly luring more direct international flights.

Nonstop flights four days a week to Cuba already have begun, and Swiss carrier Edelweiss plans twice-weekly flights to Zurich beginning in May. The board on Thursday will consider a $27.6 million renovation of Airside F to accommodate increased international travel.

Lopano's total annual compensation of $312,500 includes $250,000 salary, $49,000 pension contribution and $6,000 car allowance.

His base salary for the job he left at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was $262,642. With benefits, his compensation totaled $358,142.

He has said he wants to match his old salary.

Staff writer Sue Carlton contributed to this report. Tom Scherberger can be reached at (813) 226-3384 or [email protected]

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