Arts Council busted

For the past few weeks, there have been rumblings about the Arts Council of Northwest Florida. Member organizations were complaining about the lack of grants being distributed. Others wanted to know where all the money was going. Gallery Nights were successful. The Arts Council had been given the Old Escambia County Courthouse to operate and manage.

Last week, the County Commission asked for an audit of how the group had spent the county funds it received. Other groups, like the Pensacola Chamber have their government funds audited annually. Over the weekend, we received two phone calls that said the audit was going well for the Arts Council….”Like ‘Thelma Manley bad'” was what one caller said.

Today the PNJ reports the Arts Council has completely shutdown. The executive director, Catherine Gunn, has been dismissed and the organization has lost its 501(c)(3) non-profit status. The audit has not been made public yet.

Comm. Gene Valentino is a board member of the Arts Council. Whatever happened at the Arts Council happened under his nose. Having served on various boards, I can understand how a staff may keep things from a board, but the one area every board member needs to watch is the finances.