Lobbyist John McNichol has been named acting president and chief executive officer at the Convention Center while its politically appointed board of directors keeps up the search for a permanent leader.
At its meeting Wednesday, the Convention Center Authority board also voted to pay former CEO Ahmeenah Young $460,000 over the next 18 months to serve as a consultant to SMG, the center's new operator.
McNichol works at Pennsylvania's powerful Republican government-relations firm Greenlee Partners, whose clients include Verizon, Hershey Entertainment, UGI, the state troopers' union, Caesars Entertainment, and others. He's a member of a family prominent in Delaware County Republican politics.
He won't be paid for his service beyond the $125 per meeting he and other center board members already collect.
McNichol, board Chairman Greg Fox, and Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce president Rob Wonderling, all Republicans, and Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, are still trying to find a full-time CEO, a job that pays $220,000 a year, McNichol told me.
That's less than the $265,000 Young was paid, plus benefits. But the new chief executive won't have quite the same role. The board earlier this year voted to replace Young as the center's day-to-day boss with SMG, a firm based in West Conshohocken that also manages city-owned convention centers in Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and dozens of other cities.
SMG is supposed to convince leaders of the carpenters union and others that represent center workers to allow some exhibitors to do more of their own work at the hall, in hope of attracting more big shows and thus increasing overall employment at the state-funded center.
Despite hiring SMG, the board says it still needs a CEO and president, at the reduced pay, to serve as boss for the center's shrunken administrative staff and to represent the state in its dealings with SMG.
Board members insist that won't result in competing power centers, like the ones that sometimes made life complicated for Young's administration. McNichol's job includes working with city tourism groups and labor unions, according to a statement put out by Fox.
Since McNichol was "intimately" involved in hiring SMG, he's "the natural choice" for the oversight job, Fox said in the statement.
Since Young made a base salary of $265,000, her pay in the new consultant's role is about as much as she would have collected in salary and benefits if she'd stayed on in the job from which the center's board ousted her effective last month.