Monday, August 27, 2007

The Wang circles the wagons, but can that stop the Sheriff?

In a widely-reported letter to its supporters last week (signed by Board chairman John William Poduska), the Wang Center (at left) effectively circled the wagons - its message, essentially, was that despite allegations of executive overpayment, declining arts programming, and insider employment, "We're not changing, so shut up and give us your money." Unfortunately, a few folks who had already given money have come sniffing around the door anyway, wondering exactly where and how their cash was being spent. The Massachusetts Cultural Council has held up a grant until more information is forthcoming, and state legislators are wondering exactly what happened to a $350,000 grant for Shakespeare in Springfield, as Shakespeare never got to Springfield this year (the Wang claims the money will go toward a future visit). Even Attorney General Martha Coakley's office is getting into the act; Wang officials met with representatives from her office last week.

At this point, somehow I don't think stonewalling is going to work for the Wang; that train has sailed, and the cows have come home to roost, as they say - particularly as the latest revelations (particularly about that $350,000) are the worst yet. In short, only a fool would write these people a check at this point.

So, while the Board plots its next move, I'd suggest the following moves on the part of potential donors (possibly in the form of a joint communiqué) - simply because nothing is going to break this deadlock but money:

- Insist that Shakespeare on the Common, and its funding, be structured independently of CitiCenter's overall budget;

- Require that all strategic plans currently under development be made public;

- Demand the resignation of Board chair John William Poduska as well as that of Josiah Spaulding; and,

- Demand the immediate formation of a Leadership Task Force with its first priority being the appointment of an interim CEO.

CitiCenter has so far exhibited only defiance in this ongoing debacle; it's time its partners began to insist on a little cooperation.

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