Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 17, 2011

KRT board knew seat funds went to general costs

Some donors were not told money used for things other than seats

Glasgow Daily Times

HORSE CAVE — Kentucky Repertory Theatre officials acknowledged they knew money solicited for the purchase of new seats had been used for other expenditures.

“My understanding is the board was told this was done with the consent of the donors,” said Temple Dickinson, president of the theater’s board of directors.

The theater began asking patrons to make donations toward the purchase of new seats in 2007. In exchange for their donation, plaques in memory of loved ones would be placed on the back of the new seats.

Kit Sanderson, the theater’s new executive director, made allegations prior to a press conference called to announce the theater’s 2011-12 season that the money for the new seats had been “misappropriated” and was used for other expenditures.

Members of the theater’s board of directors declined to comment on the issue at first, but then Lyn Long, vice president of the board, said the board was investigating the allegations to see if any wrong-doing had taken place. Dickinson was out of town and unavailable for comment at the time, however, earlier this week he said the money for the seats was used for other expenditures with the consent of the donors.

Dickinson doesn’t recall the board voting to use the seat money for other expenditures, but said the board was aware of it.

He said he was told the board was notified the seat money had been used for other expenditures, such as paying actors, paying utility bills and other immediate costs, with the donors’ consent.

Robert Brock, former artistic director for the theater, said at least one board member knew the seat money was going to have to be used for other expenditures.

“I told Sandra [Wilson, who was president of the board at the time] before it happened,” he said. “I remember discussing it with Sandra before were going to have to do this.”

Wilson doesn’t remember exactly when she knew the seat money was going to be used for other expenditures, and it was possible the board was notified after the money had already been spent.

“It was hard for us to know what time the money was spent because it wasn’t separated in our report,” she said.

Wilson also said the board was told donors had been contacted about the seat money being used for other expenditures.

“We were told people had been contacted,” she said, but added she couldn’t remember who had notified the board.

Shortly after Sanderson’s the arrival, the theater’s seats were removed and replaced with folding director chairs.

“Since the seats were taken out recently, a few donors have come forward and said, ‘nobody asked me.’ Now I can’t tell you right now if all but two donors were asked, or 50 percent of them or none of them. I can’t tell you that. If it was done as what was represented to the board, with the consent of the donors, to me I don’t see the legal issue,” Dickinson said.

He also said he didn’t see any legal issue if the donors said it was OK to use their money for other expenditures.

“I certainly don’t have any evidence that the money was used to go to Vegas, to buy a condo or is an account in the Cayman Islands somewhere. I have no reason to think that at all,” Dickinson said. “I do think it was at the very least a business misjudgement to do it this way. It may conceivably be an ethical wrong or moral [wrong] and that’s what we want to make sure we make right.”

The theater will be sending donors letters asking them if they knew the seat money was being used for other expenditures, he said, adding the theater will also be asking donors what the theater can do to “make them whole.”

Four out of five donors contacted by the Daily Times have said they were unaware money for the new seats had been used for other expenditures.

Melanie Watson, of Glasgow, who is a certified public account, said she would have liked to have known the seat money was being used for other purposes.

“From my perspective as an accountant when you give money to a designated fund that designated fund should have been retained for that purpose,” she said, however, from a personal point of view, she said, “If they needed the money that badly, as long as the seats are put in with the appropriate recognition, then we are fine with that.”

One of the donors polled, Carla Wuertzer, of Munfordville, was a former board member.

Wuertzer said she knew what the intention was when seat campaign was launched a few years ago.

“I also know that shortly thereafter the theater nearly had to close its doors due to a lack of funding. You see, the timing of the ‘Save a Kentucky Treasure’ campaign was right on the heels of the seat campaign. All of this was happening as the stock market tanked and gas prices soared, ticket sales, both individual and group, were adversely affected for the same reasons. If the seat campaign money had not been used to keep the doors open then it is highly unlikely that Kentucky Repertory Theatre would have survived.” 

She said she thinks the donors should have been told the seat money was being used for other expenditures.

 “However, I would give to the seat campaign again and intend to if permanent seats are purchased,” she said. “I will support the theater in any way that I can in the future because I care about KRT. I care about quality, professional theater being available to residents of South Central Kentucky because it is a wonderful art form that entertains, educates and improves the overall quality of life in the region.”

Shirley Dougherty, of Lexington, donated money for the purchase of a new seat in memory of her late classmate Nancy Bush along with other members of the Glasgow High School Class of 1952.

Dougherty said she did not know the seat money had been used for other expenditures, and in an e-mail said, “I will have to check with others about what they think about this ‘happening.’ Our family has given to other chairs, also.”

Carol Light, of Tompkinsville, said no one contacted her to tell her what they were doing with the seat money.

“If would have been nice if the theater would have told us that the money has been used for other expenditures,” she said.

Penny Boeckmann, of Horse Cave, donated to the seat campaign, and according to Sanderson, has asked that her donation be refunded. Boeckmann would not comment on the matter.

As for the seats being removed and replaced with folding director chairs, Dickinson said he and other board members knew it was going to happen.

“I have to say there was a meeting of most of the executive committee about it with Mr. Sanderson. He emphasized one, that the seats were extremely uncomfortable and he felt unsafe and I think after the end of the meeting we felt he was doing the right thing,” Dickinson said. “It was done with short notice. I will say that, but not with no notice.”

He continued that by the end of the meeting the executive committee of the board “didn’t say do it or don’t do it.”

“I do think they will ultimately be replaced with permanent seating,” Dickinson said.