Harris Theater to remain open; lawsuit details fiscal woes at Pittsburgh Center for Arts | TribLIVE.com

Harris Theater to remain open; lawsuit details fiscal woes at Pittsburgh Center for Arts

Tom Davidson
Tribune-Review file
The Harris Theater on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
Tribune-Review file
The Regent Square Theater is along Braddock Avenue in Regent Square.

The Harris Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh will remain open through at least the end of the year, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust spokeswoman Robin Elrod said Wednesday.

Programming at the Liberty Avenue theater was suspended on Monday, as part of extensive cuts and layoffs by the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media, which handled Harris screenings through its Pittsburgh Filmmakers arm. The theater is owned and operated by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The PCAM cuts included the closing of its Regent Square Theater and the end of operations at the Marshall Mansion, the center’s longtime base in Pittsburgh’s East End. The Marshall building is owned by the city of Pittsburgh.

The current showing at the Harris, the French film “By the Grace of God,” will continue as planned from Friday through Dec. 5, Elrod said.

The PCAM’s moves surprised Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and other officials, including the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which wasn’t consulted before it was announced, according to Elrod.

PCAM’s fiscal challenges have been long known in Pittsburgh’s arts community. A lawsuit filed in federal court in October adds another layer of complexity. According to the suit, PCAM’s former controller cited nearly $250,000 in unnecessary, negligent and redundant spending by the group in a March report that she presented to a member of its board. The suit also alleges she was fired in part because she blew the whistle on the group’s leader.

Ideliza “Heidi” Medina, 76, of Ross, was fired in May, and replaced by a 25-year-old who helped her prepare the report and gave some of the information detailed in it to their boss, Dorinda Sankey, the chief administrative officer, according to the lawsuit. Sankey was among those let go by PCAM on Monday.

Medina also alleges in the suit that she was fired because of her age.

PCAM’s fiscal woes are highlighted in part in Medina’s lawsuit. They nclude $18,603 in unnecessary operating expenses due to “poor or absent planning,” $97,228 in expenses due to “negligence or mismanagement” and $133,219 in expenses that were redundant and made “because of incompetent decisions,” according to the suit.

Medina’s 37-page report includes invoices and receipts that detail the spending in question. The report is attached as an exhibit in the lawsuit.

Medina is seeking reinstatement, back pay and benefits with interest, front pay if reinstatement isn’t feasible, and unspecified damages as a result of the decision to fire her, according to the suit.

Neither Medina nor her attorney, Charles A. Lamberton, returned messages seeking comment. Cozen O’Conner, the Downtown firm representing the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media, also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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