Hell Hath No Fury Like A Legislature Scorned

On 3/7/2013, Minnesota Representatives Jim Davnie and Rick Hansen presented a letter to Jim Nobles at the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) co-signed by 86 fellow members of the MN legislature (that’s 42 percent of all seats) requesting that his office “audit the books of the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA), including a review of its feasibility study for the remodeling of Orchestra Hall, a review of the use of all public funds, and of testimony of Orchestra principals before legislative committees for and about securing of” state funds for the orchestra’s current renovation project and subsequent operational subsidies.

150x150_ITA_Guy144It’s one thing to have a handful of state representatives ask questions in a hearing but when nearly half of the state’s legislature begin demanding an investigation, it’s an entirely new ballgame.

According to the OLA’s website, their office is tasked with oversight and investigation into the state’s many programs. With dedicated divisions for financial audits and program evaluation, the office could grant this request and produce reports that would subsequently be used in any legislative hearings into whether or not certain MOA representatives misled the state when seeking requests for funding.

The epicenter of this particular political storm is MOA President and CEO Michael Henson, who is the only MOA official to be mentioned by name in the Davnie-Hansen letter.

If nothing else, it appears as though the state will have plenty of time to grind the gears legislative action since the MOA work stoppage doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s no mention in the letter about what might actually come about as a byproduct of an investigation. Will the state ask for their money back, will this ordeal poison the well for future funding requests from arts group, or will the request become dead in the water via red tape and political shenanigans?

Time will tell.

If nothing else, and assuming they haven’t done so already, the MOA board should be taking a very close look at their state’s rules and regulations as applied to nonprofit board accountability, not to mention their directors and officers liability insurance policy (colloquially known as D&O insurance).

[ilink url=”http://adaptistration.com/wp-content/uploads/129177615-Rep-Davnie-and-Hansen-Letter-to-Legislative-Auditor-on-Minnesota-Orchestra.pdf” style=”download”]Download a copy (pdf) of the Davnie-Hansen letter.[/ilink]

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Legislature Scorned

  1. Re: what will happen as a result of this investigation (if it happens)? While it is not clear (to me) whether the audit is necessary for this proposed bill to pass, but in the MN House of Representatives, HF Bill 602 proposes penalizing organizations that receive public subsidies and lockout their employees. http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/bills/billnum.asp?Billnumber=HF602&ls_year=88&session_year=2013&session_number=0. This bill has just passed in the Labor, Workplace, and Regulated Industries sub-committee and is on to the Commerce committee.

  2. It appears that bill is designed to modify unemployment benefit eligibility in situations where the the employer has locked out the employees. Of the bill’s six summary points, the penalty you mention is the final point and is an administrative penalty in the form of “payment to the trust fund by an employer of additional benefits paid to an applicant during a lockout.”

    Interestingly enough, there’s no mention about when, if passed, the bill’s provisions would go into effect so whether or not it could directly impact the pair of orchestra lockouts currently underway is unknown.

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