The CVCA Executive Board thanks the community for their interest and investment in the Center for the Arts. We are aware that there have been several rumors flying about and gaining traction. Please understand that the Executive Board has not been ignorant of the accusations but patient in the light of misinformation. We have no desire to hide anything; rather, our discretion was indicative of our desire to honor Molly and protect her reputation while being forced to hold her accountable to her multi-faceted relationship with us. While this is still our intention, because of the confusion and division, the Executive Board would like to issue a public statement regarding the various decisions connected to Molly Cornwell.
In June we were informed by our Staff that Molly had allowed strangers to use certain spaces in our building without informing the Staff or requesting approval from our Board. Furthermore, she was not present during their use of the space, which was protracted for periods of time over three days. Their use of the building necessitated that exterior doors be left open after our closing hours, which meant that our beautiful building was left unsecured and our valuable property, including art and historic treasures, were at risk over this period of time.
Because Molly had specifically requested a short-term lease with the Center last fall, in contrast to our standard two-year lease, it was legally within the right of either party to choose to not renew the lease. Please understand that not renewing a lease is a neutral decision and is not an eviction notice. The non-renewal process included 30 days to remove all personal property, and no mention of a “lock out” was made or even imagined. The Executive Board chose to initiate the non-renewal because the Center Board at large had elected to take a summer break until August. Moreover, in the absence of an Executive Director, the Executive Board is often forced to take on responsibilities in an emergency situation, which we deemed this to be because of the egregious liability Molly’s actions caused for the Center.
Naturally, none of the Board anticipated this situation, and so obviously there have been no plans for the first floor space formerly occupied by Molly. We are still grieving the loss and will eventually start discussions on its use at a later date. We ask for the community’s patience as we navigate this challenging time.
Our situation with the White Porch lease was compounded at the same time by knowledge we had received concerning Molly’s activity of selling tickets at the White Porch. A year ago, the Center Board had enacted a 9% box office fee for any tickets sold at the Center desk to cover the time of the Desk staff and any materials utilized for special events. These fees were necessary in augmenting our revenue to make up for the nonprofit rental rate we were offering our tenants. On several occasions over the Spring, the White Porch sold tickets in competition to our own ticket sales. This was public knowledge as the sale of tickets for various events were posted on the White Porch A-frame. On another occasion, members of our Staff were informed by Molly that she encouraged another entity on which she sits as a board member to sell tickets through her shop in lieu of selling them at our Desk, claiming that they would save 13%. Because of Molly’s stance towards our policy, which again was exemplified over a period of several months in the eyes of the public and remained uncorrected despite communications from the Staff, Molly was in breach of the duty of loyalty to the Center Board.
Each board member has a serious legal and fiduciary duty to the organization it serves, particularly to protect and prioritize that organization’s mission and health. The Executive Board recognized Molly’s long-time contributions to the Center and was loathe to take action in this matter; however, our Board would have failed in our own duty to the Center and its interests had we chosen to disregard her actions any longer. In addition, the Executive Board understood that Molly currently serves on so many boards because of her energetic nature and involvement in community life, and this alone had opened her up to varying levels of conflict of interest. It was clear though that she was not willing to correct her behavior and even said extremely slighting things about the Center and our Board.
Because of the protracted nature of her behavior and the lack of willingness to respond to correction, the Executive Board chose to delineate to Molly that she was in breach of the duty of loyalty to the Center and called for her resignation and requested an explanation from her, offering a cure period of five days. A call for resignation is not the same as removal and is often an early step in calling for the accountability of an erring board member, leaving room for explanation and for the request for resignation to be reneged. Molly chose to interpret our request for explanation and call for resignation as an impeachment process, requesting a hearing from our Board, which was not warranted in our bylaws nor necessary to come to a place of understanding. Her choice to view a call for accountability as personal attack has utterly misconstrued—willfully or not—the intentions and actions of the Executive Board, who has had a deep appreciation for Molly’s contributions and commitment to the Center and earnestly desires her well-being and success. Her attitude has not only been hurtful to us but also damaging to the integrity of the Center. Despite multiple attempts to explain to her that no removal process is in place nor is her removal on our agenda, Molly continues to misrepresent the Executive Board’s position. Numerous accusations are flying about; and the air is rife with unfounded speculation.
Allow us to assure the community that the Center for the Arts is healthier than it has ever been with clean books and clearer policies and procedures. Our stunning and eclectic gallery and artist community are continuing to blossom, and more and more of our unique art is being purchased and celebrated in the homes of the many tourists who admire our town. Our programs are expanding beyond capacity and continue to be a life-giving place for adults and children alike in our community. In order for life to be birthed, painful labor must be endured. In the past several decades, countless volunteers have labored together for the successes of our programs and for the restoration of our building. We are who we are because of the contributions of many, many people, and I for one am eternally grateful for their work and sacrifice. Most of those people though who have been privy to the ins and outs of board life and other important and intimate decisions would be the first to tell you that it often was accompanied by battles for territory and in-fighting, some of it healthy and some of it not. In the same way, we firmly believe that when we weather this storm together, what will emerge is an even more beautiful and strong Center for the Arts for our community and for future generations.
One last reminder: our regular board meetings are open to all paid membership of the CVCA. We will schedule time for members to make comments at our next regular board meeting on August 7 at 5:30 p.m.