In a remarkable turn of events at the Scottsdale Cultural Council, high-flying CEO Bill Banchs ($250k/year) appears to have rebuffed a grant from the highly respected Piper Trust that would have supported the efforts of the Scottsdale Public Art program. The total value of the grant appears to be up to $90,000.
I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind turning down grant money in today’s economy, but maybe that’s the problem (the mind, not the economy). Or the Cultural Council is just flush with cash courtesy of the taxpayers of Scottsdale .
In the process of delivering this backhand to the Piper Trust, Banchs has earned himself a whistleblower claim from the veteran employee who sought the grant. This employee has a national reputation for excellence, yet Banchs accused her in an email of being “disruptive” and of “grossly mishandling the [SPA] master plan process.” Banchs goes on to imply that pursuing the Piper grant was an act of disloyalty to the Cultural Council.
In an equally remarkable display of arrogance, Banchs delivered a nice little slap at an SPA Advisory Board member, Dick Hayslip, by informing all concerned that Hayslip is not authorized to sign the Piper grant application. Mr. Hayslip also happens to be the Associate General Manager of Salt River Project.
As you probably know, I have for months questioned the financial condition of the Cultural Council; the circumstances under which they received a 20-year, no-bid contract [large file] with the City of Scottsdale that currently earns them $4 million per year (with virtually no objective performance metrics); and their utter contempt for the operational transparency they previously promised to the City of Scottsdale.
In other recent developments:
- The Cultural Council has been plagued by a structural deficit and chronic low ticket sales.
- A consultant working on the Master Plan has recommended Public Art be split off from the Cultural Council.
- The Scottsdale City Auditor is in the midst of a examination of the Cultural Council’s books that will conclude in November.
- SCC CFO Jim Green departed for greener pastures a few months ago. I wonder what he knew and how soon we’ll find out?
Update September 16:
The next SCC Board of Trustees meeting will be Tuesday the 27th of September in the SCC boardroom above the Orange Table (west of the main entrance to the Center for the Performing Arts).This is an “open meeting” and the public can attend.
There are currently two items on the “executive session” portion of the agenda. Given the nature of those items, I’d say there’s a better-than-fair chance someone (or more than one person) will be looking for a job afterward. Of course, after the most recent email volley that could happen much sooner.
The last time I attended an SCC Board meeting, “the public” was ushered out of the room for executive session, then after exec the “open” meeting was reconvened to, “approve what we talked about during exec.” Then the meeting was quickly adjourned and no further details about executive session discussions and decisions were forthcoming. I believe this is a violation of the Arizona Open Meeting Law with which the City Council must comply, and the Cultural Council has pledged they will also honor…but that promise has yet to be fulfilled.