Culture of Creative Dishonesty

It’s a shame when the most creative part of a cultural arts organization is the ability of its so-called leaders to artfully spin the truth into the ditch.

There are a thousand ways to be dishonest without actually telling a lie.


In the latest missive from “The Office of the President” at the Scottsdale Cultural Council, Bill Banchs has recycled another of his yearly emails touting his success while simultaneously pleading for taxpayer subsidies ($4 million every year and he wants MORE). Just as in my previous article [Good News, Bad News], we’ve heard it all. Several times.

Here’s the first paragraph of the Drivel Gazette from “The Desk of the President”:

The Scottsdale Cultural Council is having a very strong fundraising year, which is clearly a powerful endorsement [emphasis added] of its programs and direction by citizens and corporations who are investing in it. To date, the Cultural Council has raised more than double its year-to-date contributed revenue, and most of this year’s success so far is coming from new sources. Such community investment is essential to the private-public partnership that that is the foundation of the Cultural Council’s existence and mission. The product of this partnership between the City of Scottsdale and the Cultural Council’s supporters is the world-class programming that we all enjoy every year and that fills us with pride in our community. With five months left in our fiscal year, we have a long way to go to our goal. The good news is that most of our contributed revenues each year are committed in the final three months of the fiscal year.

“A powerful endorsement of programs and directions,” would be selling tickets and having shows at least pay for their costs.

What El Presidente is counting as “contributed revenue” contains a large pot of uncollected pledges. As such, they shouldn’t be counted for bragging purposes…or any other purpose other than what they are…promises to pay at some point in the future.

Double last year’s fundraising performance? That’s because last year was about 25% of what it should have been…so we are up to 50% this year.

“New sources?” There’s a constant churn of contributors at SCC, because it doesn’t take them too long to get sick of Banchs and how he wastes their money.

“Public-private partnership?” It’s 90% of ‘partnerships’ like this that give the other 10% a bad name. Would you ever partner with someone who wants your money and won’t show you the books?

“World class programming?” Pop culture and minor name recognition.

Later in his manifesto, the SCC’s CEO references having hosted three sold-out shows. But did they actually make any money? And how many other shows were sparsely attended, losing even MORE money? How many days was SCPA dark (hint: the majority) when it COULD have been making money?

I forwarded Banchs’s message to a former SCC insider, who responded with this:

More double-talk… I think this is the same message, more or less, that he sends each year around this time. “We are doing better than ever – almost unimaginably better than ever before – BUT, we still have a very long way to go.

And while we may still be very far from our goal, all of our money comes rolling in at the veery end of the fiscal year.” (Yeah, like weeks after all of his donors have left the desert for the summer they suddenly remember that the left a wheelbarrow full of $100 bills in the back yard…the epilogue is the same each year as well. We have in-hand pledges and promises for amounts that will help us far exceed our most ambitious goal, except those amounts always fail to appear. And BB “forgets” to follow up with the actual news…

What a total chump. He’s pulled the same old trick out of his hat every year, the board is long gone for the summer, and the final result never, ever gets close to the picture of Nirvana he works so hard to paint. A very sick co-dependency between BB, his board, and the City Council. It’s Groundhog Day all year long at the SCC.

And let’s not forget the final piece of this – a dire plead again each fall for increased City support for the SCC so they can REALLY expand their programming and chase even more half-baked moonbeams and rainbow programs painted up with more of the SCC’s gobbledygook rationale.

At least there’s the eagle-eyed, sharp-tongued reporter waiting in the wings to sling some serious reportage… or maybe not… It’s just a charade that costs the public millions & millions, year after year.

Banchs at least compliments his employees:

As we enter the height of our 2012-13 season, it is always a time when one can truly see and appreciate the exceptional workforce of the Cultural Council. For our staff, it is 24/7 for several months. This simply would not happen if nearly 150 full- and part-time, highly dedicated and capable employees did not come together as a formidable team to present the best cultural offerings for Scottsdale’s residents and visitors. We are fortunate to benefit from their highly professional expertise in a broad array of professions.

What Banchs doesn’t tell you is how much talent SCC has lost since he got there because they wouldn’t put up with his childish tirades; or how many he fired because he wouldn’t tolerate their “professional expertise.” Banchs terrorizes the remainder at the same time he publicly praises them…which he’s probably only doing because he’s going to include in his next City Council begging session a pitch to give raises to his people. Naturally, he’ll look to pad his own $250k/year a little, too, but he won’t tell US that.

As my friend and former insider says,

Pity the employees at SCC… buffeted by non-truths and fantasies in the mind of their CEO, supported by his numbskull board and twisted idiots on the City Council.

Did I mention that council member Linda Milhaven (the same one who wants to raise your taxes so she can give the money to the Cultural Council) also was the chairman of the board of SCC?

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