August Wilson Center plea sent to state Attorney General Kane
Several weeks before state Attorney General Kathleen Kane got involved with the financially troubled August Wilson Center for African American Culture, six black political leaders sent her a letter asking that she assist with efforts to keep the cultural center open.
“We did not ask the attorney general to do anything specific with regards to the August Wilson Center,” Allegheny County Councilman William Robinson, D-Hill District, said on Saturday. “We sent the letter because she has oversight over charitable organizations, and we wanted to offer our support in any effort that is undertaken to help save this valuable asset.”
On Thursday, Kane filed a petition in Allegheny County Orphans' Court asking for a full accounting of the center's finances, noting that nearly $17.4 millio n in public money went toward construction of the building on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.
Robinson; state Reps. Jake Wheatley Jr., D-Hill District, and Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington; county Councilwoman Amanda Green-Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights; and Pittsburgh City Councilmen Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess signed the Oct. 10 letter to Kane.
It bemoans the “total lack of information” the public has received from the August Wilson Center and Dollar Bank, which holds a $7 million mortgage on the center. The bank started foreclosure proceedings in September when the center defaulted on its mortgage and allowed insurance on the building to lapse. The center finished fiscal 2013 with a deficit of $1.8 million.
The bank asked an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge to remove managers, appoint a receiver and stop the center from seeking bankruptcy protection.
The center's financial troubles can be traced to its decision to borrow heavily to finance construction of the building after fundraising efforts fell short.
The letter did not ask Kane to take any specific action. Instead, she was asked “to use your office to assure that if it is possible for the center to be saved, that such will be done.”
“It is our hope that all stakeholders collaborate and communicate toward the goal of finding a solution in the best interest of the public of Western Pennsylvania,” the letter stated.
The letter did, however, ask the attorney general to avoid “any (mortgage) refinancing plans” because the center lacks a “dedicated source of revenue to pay another mortgage.”
Kane's spokesman Joe Peters said on Saturday he was not familiar with the Oct. 10 letter, but that any correspondence to the attorney general is taken into account when decisions are made.
On Thursday, Peters said the AG's office was working with the center and Dollar Bank to restore the center's financial stability and ensure “good stewardship on the part of charitable boards.”
Burgess said he, too, signed the letter to inform Kane of the willingness of local black leaders to assist with efforts to rescue the Wilson Center.
“My hope is that we will be able to find a way to pay off the (Wilson Center's) debt and look for some creative ways to create partnerships that will provide the programming needed to sustain it,” Burgess said. “But the main purpose of the letter is to let the attorney general know that we're willing to do whatever is necessary to save this important cultural asset.”
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or email@example.com.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.