CHARLOTTE, N.C.— A religious broadcaster is building a $4 million home in a gated, lakefront community in western South Carolina at the same time that the ministry has cut jobs and reset thermostats to save money in its new headquarters.
Inspiration Networks' CEO David Cerullo is building the 9,000-square-foot home on a lot that overlooks Lake Keowee, The Charlotte Observer reported Monday.
Inspiration Networks has drawn scrutiny for up to $26 million in incentives it won from South Carolina to move from Charlotte to Indian Land, S.C., in Lancaster County. The network's revenues are expected to approach $100 million, largely donations from people who are told God favors those who donate.
Cerullo has said 80 cents of each donated dollar is spent to spread the Gospel.
In addition to laying off workers, the newspaper reported, the ministry froze wages and stopped making contributions to 401(k) retirement accounts. The thermosta o te etor'sne bilin ascu t 6 dgre urngth wnter.
A network spokesman did not respond to calls and e-mails requesting comment on the house. Cerullo defended his $1.5 million in compensation in a March interview and said he rejected recommendations that he be paid more.
"If they've got these kinds of assets, does the state really need to offer ... tax breaks?" asked Don Weaver, president of the S.C. Association of Taxpayers.
Employees told the newspaper the ministry began laying off some workers late last year.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is investigating the finances of six other televangelists and told the newspaper that leaders of religious nonprofits should be careful not to use viewers' donations to adopt extravagant lifestyles.
IRS rules bar nonprofits from paying "unreasonable compensation" to officials.