The Haines Borough will withhold the Foundation for the Chilkat Center for the Arts' $35,000 budget pending renegotiation of the foundation's lease on the facility.
The move came Tuesday, June 18, after attorney Jane Sebens presented the Assembly a letter signed by 20 Chilkat Center users outlining concerns over the center's management.
Members of six organizations that frequently use the center - KHNS, Haines Arts Council, Haines Chamber of Commerce, Haines Borough School District, Lynn Canal Community Players and Haines Visitor Center - signed the letter, though it isn't clear whether each endorsement represented the group.
Haines Arts Council president Tom Heywood acknowledged conflict between user groups and center management has existed, but said most past problems have been solved. "The arts council has in the last couple years enjoyed a pretty good relationship with the Chilkat Center."
Heywood declined to sign the letter. "We had some difficulties in the past, but most things have been worked out."
The group asked that compliance with state open-meetings laws be a condition of the lease, and that the foundation's board be made up of representatives selected by user groups.
Both requirements are already in the foundation's bylaws, but have been ignored, Sebens said. "They've already got bylaws that require these things," she said. "We're just asking that the borough make them do what they said they're going to do."
The group's letter said Lynn Canal Community Players representatives have been trying to attend a foundation board meeting for more than a year, but that the time and location of the meetings were not provided, even after repeated requests.
But foundation board president Erich Von Stauffenberg said the open-meeting requirement was deleted from the group's bylaws several years ago. "We're a private foundation, so we don't fall under the open-meetings act."
Von Stauffenberg said the foundation shifted from monthly to biannual meetings, and those meetings have been happening in July and December in recent years. Meeting notices are put up in "the normal places," he said, including the bulletin board at the post office.
Assemblyman Rich Kaloostian expressed frustration that efforts to attend foundation meetings have been stymied. "How can I spend public money without public participation? They haven't had a public meeting in more than a year."
Sebens said conflicts with the foundation's management have discouraged some groups from using the center. "The facility is under-used," she said. "I know there are several events that would've gone on there and didn't because of these problems."
The Assembly considered cutting the center's funding to put pressure on the facility's management. "If we take the money out of the budget, we would have their undivided attention," Assemblywoman Lucy Harrell said.
Instead, Assembly members voted unanimously to write a letter to the foundation saying no checks will be issued until a new lease is negotiated. Assembly members agreed that following open-meeting laws and reworking the composition of the foundation's board will be conditions of the lease.
The lease is up for renewal this month.