Rochester Civic Theatre

Such drama… And I wish it was not that way.

There is a big difference between supporting the arts or theater and blindly supporting a particular organization no matter how they perform. I have no blind allegiance to any one theater company and would like to maximize the return on public investments. There should be no doubt who is responsible for the current condition of the Civic Theatre (RCT). The responsibility lies with their 2017-2019 Board.

The City Council vote 6-1 to notice the RCT of their non-compliance with a number of lease violations. Contrary to what has been stated by the Board they are NOT in compliance with the lease and as such the City has the right to terminate the lease. They can make corrections to bring themselves into compliance with the lease. At this point I am content to simply provide no more taxpayer funds and see how it shakes out. Taxpayer are putting $200k annually into RCT but are not required to do so.

Based on a review of the RCT finances, which is hard because there are so many errors, the organization is essentially bankrupt. The organization can not continue with out a massive bailout from either government or private donor. I do not believe the existing organization can manage public funds or assets. The organization appears to have loans from board members which is a huge no-no, is unable to pay serious vendors, and did not meet their 2019 payments with 2019 funds allocated.

Any thought that the RCT was looking to work with the city and find a path forward in a new model was probably dispelled with this petition which is more of an attack on me and contains information that the Board of Directors now knows is incorrect. As of this writing some of the incorrect information is still posted. Despite the claim that this petition comes from the entire board, at least one board member claims to have never seen this. My guess, and this is just a guess, is that this was actually written a couple of board members with ties to a prominent elected official. All of the recommendations were written and prepared by the city administrator and not myself. Everything was forwarded to the City Council by a unanimous vote of the entire Oversight Committee. I was heavily involved in diving in and finding the irregularities in the RCT financial documents. I view the attempt to shift the focus to me for the facts that we discovered as to how some of the board members mistreated a victim of sexual harassment. The difference in my case is that I have an office and official oversight role to protect me.

From a legal standpoint, we can enforce the lease, renegotiate, or move to terminate. I was more interested in the second, the recommendation was for the later. In terms of the numerous findings I have put out I have not heard that any of them are inaccurate, if any of them are I would be happy to discuss, but most of the findings came out of a public meeting that is video archived.

From a pragmatic standpoint there are so many red flags that show a complete lack of honest, transparency, fiduciary responsibility, and community safeguards. The Board changed the rules in past years to remove accountability to anyone but themselves. Previously citizens got to choose the leadership, that is no longer the case.

I made the comment that based on the lack of controls I personally discovered, I would not let my kids into that building. Even in the face of behavior that staff and board members knew was wrong, no attempt to notify the City was ever made.

I was told the following: “Kids at the Theatre were scolded for leaving toys in Kevin’s bed, and told you know that makes him mad.” No I should clarify that I don’t have any reason to believe kids were being abused. HOWEVER, there are so many red flags with this, not the least of which the fact that the ED was sleeping in the basement. What it tells me is that there absolutely no boundaries or safeguards in place that should be for an organization like this. This is not the kind of thing that is covered in the lease because the lease is another legacy of past administrations. What this kind of information does tell me is that we should not give additional public funds or trust to the organization.

One outcome that I am happy about was how dramatically the city cleaned up our contractual relationship with Experience Rochester. That lease is an example that the city learned from past mistakes and that the current team will write leases that better protect our shared assets. If we do renegotiate a lease with RCT it will be done in a much more responsible way.

Interestingly my “enough is enough” stance on RCT is putting me at odds with a number of friends, however my fiduciary duty is to the City.

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