CVB Board Meeting for January Held Monday,
At its previous board meeting, the CVB board had adopted guidelines to deal with doling out money to festivals, outlining a plan to make sure that festivals spend CVB grant money toward advertisement, promotions and other operating expenses (to be approved by the CVB board), but not for entertainment. It also set a cap of $100,000 total annual budget for grants to festivals after committing more than $154,000 last year. It was this change in guidelines that apparently brought out District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who was at the meeting representing members of the Alliance of Festival Organizers (AFO). The organization was formed to represent the interest of black-organized festivals, in particular, MLK Dream 365, Juneteenth, Legends Concert, Senior Citizens Unity Luncheon, Artesia Days, The Crawford Cotton Boll, The Southside-Townsend Blues Festival and the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival. Brooks told the CVB board that these black-organized festivals need grant money to operate because they don’t have the corporate sponsorship that other, more established festivals enjoy (such as Pilgrimage, Market Street, etc.).
Brooks told the CVB board members that he and the AFO members came before them as friends of the board, and not adversaries. He then subtly reminded them that elected officials (The Board of Supervisors, Mayor & City Council) were the ones that appointed them to the board because, “you all are the people that can make some things happen.”
“I know the course of the last few months have been a rough ride (for the CVB)”, said Brooks. “I’ve said to a number of ya’ll…I hope that the day will come when you’ll be under the radar. That you won’t be plagued in the paper. So we’ve come today, all of us, representing the festivals. And i’ve come thinking that it was certainly an oversight on ya’lls part as you developed the rules (for the new funding guidelines).”
Brooks told the board how challenging it was for festival organizers to put on such an event (Brooks is the main organizer of ‘Juneteenth’). From purchasing rain insurance to paying entertainers (which the new guidelines would eliminate as far as grant money from the CVB is concerned), organizers have an agonizing job, he said. “You go through all the red tape…and you’ve gotta deal with these entertainers who are so unique. And some of ya’ll wonder why we don’t give them checks…or cashier checks. Because what happens is, an entertainer comes out of Memphis and his band comes out of North Carolina. Before they play, you’ve got to pay them. Why?…because on so many occasions they’ve gone to perform at shows where money wasn’t raised and they didn’t get paid. As Rufus Thomas said to me some years ago, and ya’ll remember Rufus Thomas of the famed ‘Funky Chicken’…he came to me and said, “brother…i’ve seen better with my money in my pocket.” So that seems to be the sentiment. So, we’ve come to ask ya’ll (CVB board) for some specific consideration.”
“Without money for entertainment, there would be no festivals,” Brooks added.
“First, we need for you to go back and allow (grant) money to be spent on entertainment. We understand the limitations of making entertainment an eligible expenditure. One of the interesting things is that…every year, entertainment costs escalates. You know, we have to start early trying to get entertainers because the price goes up…but one of the interesting things…good entertainment brings large crowds. That’s the essence of a good festival. The other thing is…to let the advertisement and promotions be decided by the festival organizers” (revised CVB grant guidelines are calling for the CVB board to approve marketing for the festivals).
Brooks ask the board to consider, when scrutinizing the total expenditures of a festival, that the CVB board only scrutinize the amount of grant money provided by the CVB. “Ya’ll have asked us (festivals) for a total budget expenditure cost, how much money we’ve spent… how much money we had coming in, which is fine. We would ask ya’ll to consider, is that let our report reflect the total budget, but only canceled checks and receipts for that portion of the money that you all give us. If you give us $10,000, we will show how we spent $10,000. And basically that $10,000 will be in promotion and entertainment (including paying the sound technician, he added). Because we raise other money.”
Brooks also called for the cancelization of Catfish In The Alley and asked that money spent on the event be spent on the other established festivals. CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter disagreed, though, noting that Catfish In The Alley was probably the most diverse event in the area because of its broad appeal to the races. She noted that she attended most of the black-organized festivals and her and her husband were some of the few white people attending. Catfish In The Alley is not part of festival funding. It has its own line-item and doesn’t fall under festival grant funding.
At the end of Brooks’ presentation, MLK Dream 365 organizer Learnard Dickerson pointed out that all black-organized festivals and events combined grant money from the CVB totaled $73,000, while one single event, the annual Pilgrimage, cost $60,000.
When the CVB board discussion turned to financial matters, Board Treasurer Bart Wise informed the board of a just-completed second audit of CVB finances for the year ending September 30th, 2010. Wise said it’s the second audit of 3 (the 3rd will deal with finances from 10/1/2010 thru 9/30/2011). He said 3 audits will have taken place in the past 6 months. Wise said that nearly $20,000 was unaccounted for in that fiscal year time frame (James Tsismanakis was still executive director at the time. He said more than $14,000 in undocumented expenses…and another $5700 in unsubstantiated expenses were uncovered during the audit).
“A lot of it goes back to the credit card use…Whirllie (Byrd), I know you’ve had a concern about that…there was no receipts or explanation of what the money was spent for. So, that’s about $20,000 kinda hanging out there,” said Wise. He went on to say that the money was spent online and no one authorized its use. It was Tsismanakis, however, that was responsible for the expenditures.
CVB board member Dewitt Hicks wondered why an audit was never performed between 2009 and 2011, because, he said, the board had ordered one for each year.
The next scheduled CVB board meeting is set for the 3rd Monday of January, the 23rd.