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    Cultural group to cut ties with city

    Citing a conflict with the mayor, the Oldsmar Cultural Arts Foundation says it can live without the city's $6,000 a month. The mayor calls the claims ''hogwash.''

    By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002

    OLDSMAR -- Citing a growing rift with the mayor, a nonprofit foundation that provides community arts programs has severed its relationship with the city.

    The Oldsmar Cultural Arts Foundation formally notified Oldsmar officials Friday that it will end its contract with the city, which pays the group $6,000 a month. In a letter to the city, the foundation points to the "mayor's growing hostility and distortions of fact" as reason the group is willing to give up its monthly pay.

    "We just decided it wasn't worth trying to continue fighting," foundation president Ed Manny said Monday. "We are not doing it with any malice. We just decided it was going to be best for us."

    Mayor Jerry Beverland said he has not been hostile toward the foundation, and called the group's claims "hogwash." He said its leaders want to blame him for their problems.

    As evidence of his support, Beverland said, he has done numerous things for the foundation.

    "Good gravy, can you name anyone who has done that much for them," Beverland said Monday. "Nobody has done that much for them. Nobody. Don't blame me for your shortcomings. Look inward, not outward."

    The foundation will continue to provide some cultural arts programs, though not as much, Manny said. The group plans to vacate the city's Arts Centre on St. Petersburg Drive in 30 days and find a new home.

    The foundation was incorporated in December 1998 to strengthen the city's arts programs and to raise money for a cultural arts building. In January 2001, the group began receiving $6,000 a month to take over the arts programs as part of a contract that required the foundation to stage art exhibits and receptions, symphonies, concerts, dance lessons and art classes.

    "It has become clearly obvious to the executive board of the foundation that despite the organization's best efforts, the mayor of Oldsmar has no desire to see the effort proceed," according to the letter signed by Manny.

    Shortly after the group began receiving its monthly stipend from the city, Beverland and the group clashed over the foundation's fundraising and other issues. Beverland criticized the group for being slow to raise money for the arts building.

    At a council meeting last month, Beverland renewed his complaints after Manny presented the foundation's quarterly report to city officials. Manny said it caught him by surprise when Beverland "jumped on me" at a public meeting.

    "That was when I realized that it wasn't going to work because he didn't want it to work," Manny said. "He could have approached that situation a lot differently."

    Beverland said he has a right to question the foundation as long as the group receives $72,000 a year from the city.

    "They are getting tax dollars," Beverland said. "Can I ask some questions? Yeah. It's city money. They don't want questions asked of them, then we need to examine why not."

    As further proof that he does not want to end the city's relationship with the foundation, Beverland said, he will recommend to the council that the city does what it can to prevent the foundation from skipping out of its two-year contract.

    "I'm going to make them stick to the contract," Beverland said. "I'm not going to let them out."

    The foundation has more than 140 members and hopes to have 200 by the end of the year. According to its quarterly report, the group lists its income as $47,000 from January to March, which includes $18,000 from the city and money raised during fundraisers. Minus expenses, the group's net income for that period is $7,900.

    Manny said the group can survive without the city's monthly contribution and plans to continue with its goal of raising money for an arts building. The foundation still plans to hold the two theater shows this month and the Pianorama show in June.

    In his response to Manny, Beverland cites his previous support for the group, a list that includes donating money to the foundation, donating his son's artwork for fundraisers, serving as a judge for an architectural contest and letting the group use his artwork during exhibits.

    "They are upset because I keep bringing up the fact that the foundation was established to raise money and I guess when you bring that up, they get their feelings hurt," Beverland said. "If they think I should be down there cheerleading for them, they are out of their minds."

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