Community support questioned at Steamboat City Council meeting
Arts Council leader makes conflict-of-interest accusation Tuesday
December 20, 2011
Steamboat Springs — What was intended to be a simple report about community-support funding turned into a lengthy discussion about the process of allocating $330,000 for 35 organizations next year.
Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Clark Davidson asked that 2012 city funding for the organization be reconsidered. He said the Arts Council's funding decreased by 72 percent to $5,000 from $18,000 this year. He said it was reduced by nearly 80 percent since 2010.
Davidson accused Nancy Kramer, who leads the Arts and Culture Coalition, of having a conflict of interest. Kramer is the nonpaid executive director of the Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series, which received $30,000 in community support funding from the coalition for 2012, up 22 percent from $24,500 this year.
Davidson said the funding is nearly twice that of any other organization that received 2012 Arts and Culture Coalition funding and nearly 30 percent of the overall total.
Kramer told the Steamboat Springs City Council that the Arts and Culture Coalition was asked to consider large gifts when making its funding decisions. After the meeting, Davidson said the Arts Council would receive a contribution from the estate of Gloria Gossard that he thought would be $900,000. Kramer also said that the Arts Council was the lowest-rated nonprofit that requested funds and that there were questions about the financial part of the grant.
"The finances at the Arts Council have never been more sound, never been more transparent," Davidson said after the meeting. "The statement that they're not is defamation."
Davidson told council members that the Arts Council has paid its outstanding bills and line of credit, which has been eliminated, since he took over in 2009.
Kramer wrote in an email after the meeting that she doesn't have any voting rights on the coalitions or any related organization.
According to Steamboat Today archives, Kramer approached the city and helped create the Arts and Culture and the Environmental coalitions in 2009. They were modeled after the nearly 2-decade-old Human Resources Coalition, which provides city and county funding to nonprofits.
Several City Council members asked whether there was recourse for Davidson and any other nonprofit not satisfied with its funding allocation from the coalitions.
Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark, who also serves as the city's finance director, said that because the City Council previously approved the 2012 budget, which includes the community support allocation amount, they were just reviewing the coalitions' decisions.
City Council member Kenny Reisman said it was important that the coalitions operate the same, especially as Steamboat considers adding a fourth for economic development.
"I agree there needs to be consistency across all three coalitions," said Mark Andersen, chairman of the steering committee that decides how much of the total community-support funding each coalition should receive. "Are we there yet? Probably not. Are we working to get there? Yes."
Kramer told the City Council that she has told all Arts and Culture recipients that they could meet with her personally to discuss the coalition's funding decisions. She said Davidson has not requested to meet with her.
City Council member Walter Magill said he thought the City Council should review the Arts and Culture Coalition's funding allocations.
"When we're challenged on our funds that are taxpayer dollars, I think it's our responsibility to look into it," he said.
Magill made a motion that wasn't supported.
City Council member Sonja Macys brought up a discussion the council had two weeks ago about a potential conflict of interest if she served on the steering committee. She is executive director of Yampatika, which receives funding from the Environmental Coalition.
Macys said she didn't think Tuesday's meeting was the time to address all the issues. Reisman also advocated reviewing the process early next year.
"When we address this fourth coalition, which is one of our priorities, I see that as an opportunity to really open this up, re-evaluate," he said. "Just take a look at where we've been, where we've come from and how we should be moving forward. If there's a conflict of interest at that point, then we should bring it to the forefront and see how we resolve it for 2012."
The City Council approved the allocations, 5-1. Magill opposed, and Macys recused herself.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com