- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) - The board of the nonprofit Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona has approved a bonus of more than $150,000 for its chief executive officer, and some are questioning if there’s a better use for the money.

The decision Wednesday also gives CEO Gary Palmer a 3 percent raise, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1l1R9Lj ). It’s slightly more than the bonus he received last January.

Palmer’s total compensation for 2012 - the last year that records are available - was more than $650,000.

The board on Wednesday approved $1.6 million in bonus payments to about 280 employees, including Palmer and other executives like supervisors, directors and assistant directors. The payments will be made next month.

Advocates for charities wonder if the bonuses and salaries diminish the casino’s mission of helping nonprofits.

“I don’t understand a $150,000 bonus when the whole purpose of Prairie Meadows is to fund nonprofits,” said Stacey Cargill, a West Des Moines resident who has campaigned against casino expansion. “That’s the equivalent of 30 (different) $5,000 grants. That’s a lot of nonprofits that are going without money to fill Gary Palmer’s deep pockets.”

Board member John Rowen said Palmer met or exceeded annual goals. He said salary studies show Palmer and other executives are underpaid. The newspaper reported some of those salary studies compared Prairie Meadows with casinos with much larger revenues.

“I’m not an expert by any means, but we look at studies and we look at comparables,” Rowen said. “As a board we look at what we think is fair to really maintain the level of leadership that you need to carry out what we do.”

During its Wednesday meeting, the board also approved grants to more than 200 charities.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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