Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts debt down to $50,000 | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts debt down to $50,000

Ryan Summerlin
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts put on its 25th annual Dancers Dancing recital this year, despite major financial issues for the organization that surfaced in April.

The Glenwood Center for the Arts has whittled its debt to teachers and vendors to about $50,000, down from $68,000 in April.

Also during a meeting Tuesday at the art center, the crippled organization's membership voted in favor of turning over the art center programs to the city of Glenwood Springs while trying to keep the nonprofit intact — if the city will go for that.

A 4-month-old police investigation into the art center's finances continues, and the district attorney has been given an audit report that found about $5,000 in art center expenses that were "likely unauthorized" and questioned another $15,000.

Revelations about the art center's financial problems came after Christina Brusig resigned as executive director in April.

Kate McRaith, art center board president, said Tuesday that the board confronted Brusig in January with numerous staff concerns about her management, including management of the organization's finances. Eventually the board gave Brusig the option of either resigning or being terminated, McRaith said.

Before then, McRaith said, Brusig consistently presented a glowing picture of the art center's finances, and the board never had any reason to doubt it. Not until after the executive director's resignation did the hard numbers detailing the nonprofit's debt and unpaid bills see daylight, McRaith told the membership.

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The board has kept quiet about these details until now out of concern that it would be releasing personnel information. But because Brusig recently spoke to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent about the results of the auditor's report, she in effect waived keeping her personnel information private, said McRaith and Charlie Willman, the art center board's attorney.

Brusig has said that all expenses identified in the auditor's report were approved by the board. She also said in April that she resigned because she wasn't receiving enough support from the board and that the workload had become too much.

The art center's members are frustrated because the organization's future is murky. The nonprofit's debt to teachers is still about $20,600 and it owes vendors about $30,000.

McRaith said that new "checks and balances" have been incorporated that should have been in place before. And the board has developed a business plan that aims to have a small surplus each year, which the board could use to pay down its debt. But the art center's future is largely in the Glenwood Springs City Council's hands.

Glenwood City Attorney Karl Hanlon has said the art center is "functionally bankrupt" and that City Council has enough basis to terminate its agreements with the nonprofit.

"The rapid deterioration … under the arts council's poor oversight clearly implicates a violation of the public arts contract and the potential misappropriation of funds that is sufficient to terminate both agreements for legal noncompliance," Hanlon said last week.

Today the City Council is expected to decide whether to terminate the city's lease agreement for the Center for the Arts building and its monetary support for the art center. Some council members have already stated their lack of confidence in the current art center board, and that sentiment loomed large at the nonprofit's membership meeting.

The council delayed its decision to give the art center membership a chance to meet.

One of the primary votes Tuesday was whether the members wanted to elect a completely new board. But many members were resistant to what they took as council pressure.

Instead, the membership voted to add two seats on the board in an effort to add new blood while retaining the institutional knowledge of the members who have been working in recent months to pull the art center out of its financial hole.

The overarching theme of the art center membership meeting was confusion over the organization's future, its options and whether any action on its part would even matter to City Council.

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