Members of the House Legacy Committee yesterday delivered hard-hitting questions of Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson about the finances of the Orchestra and use of state tax dollars for bonding and Legacy funds.
“This seems like a cold-description of a balance sheet. It haunts me,” said Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL). “It seems convenient that the lockout corresponds with the construction project.”
“This seems the opposite of preservation of the arts, it seems as if it is the destruction of the arts,” Hausman said. Hausman is the chair of the Capital Investment Committee in charge of bonding projects.
“I see the Ohio orchestra is attracting record audiences,” said Rep. Joe McDonald (R). “So it seems as though other areas of the country are finding creative ways to make this work.”
Multiple times during his testimony, CEO Henson said he would like to “speedily” resolve the situation with the Musicians.
Henson’s testimony contradicts his actions since August.
– The Musicians first proposed a “joint-independent financial analysis” in August. Management initially rejected the request and only agreed in principle in January to the analysis.
– Management recently cited the time it would take for the joint independent study as the reason for cancelling concerts into April.
– Management has rejected three requests by the Musicians to address the full board of directors since August.
– Management rejected four proposals from the Musicians including binding arbitration.
“For the past four seasons a number of weeks have been left unscheduled. Musicians asked the management to schedule outreach and education concerts, offering specific ideas,” Orchestra violinist Catherine Schubilske testified.
“The answer was no. Essentially these were weeks where the musicians were paid to stay home and no concerts were produced. An estimated $2M was wasted on these unused services,” Schubilske said.
The Minnesota Legislature continues to examine the actions of the Minnesota Orchestra Management including two hearings calling CEO Henson to testify regarding the lockout, and most recently the use of Legacy funds.
Other legislative concerns include:
– Henson misleading the Minnesota Legislature about the orchestra’s finances during his testimony in favor of the orchestra’s bonding request. LISTEN: http://bit.ly/UUu3W7
– The revelations in the Star Tribune story of Monday, November 26th, 2012 which revealed that Henson’s strategy was to show “balanced” budgets when requesting state bonding funds, but show large “deficits” at the time of labor negotiations . STORY: http://bit.ly/Teh0MX MINUTES: http://bit.ly/QJqvse
House Legacy committee chair, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL) said the that Legacy Committee would likely meet again to discuss other options related to funding of the Orchestra. Henson left the committee without answering further questions from legislators or the media.
The Musicians issued a unanimous, secret-ballot “no confidence” vote on Henson in December.