By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Monday, March 24, 2014
Council pulls Festival of Friends funding
The city will withhold funding from the Festival of Friends over a long-festering dispute about financial transparency with the controversy-dogged free music event.
The three-day festival, which has a $1-million budget, is the only arts group funded by the city as a board or agency that doesn’t provide audited financial statements — annual budget results verified by a chartered accountant.
That hasn’t stopped council from handing over $85,000 each year — until now. In a surprise move Wednesday, the budget committee voted to withhold further funding until the festival hands over the requested information.
“Every single year we say we want audited financial statements and it doesn’t happen,” said Councillor Brad Clark, who authored the motion. “All of these other organizations comply, but we don’t expect him to?”
A shocked festival head Loren Lieberman immediately came to City Hall after learning about the decision on Twitter and had a heated exchange with Clark, asking why council would metaphorically “punch me in the balls.”
Lieberman was outraged he wasn’t warned in advance of the meeting and said city staff assured him he had submitted sufficient documentation. The festival has already been forwarded close to $20,000 for 2014, which won’t be clawed back.
“If they need more (information), ask for it,” he said. “Don’t punch me in the face and then tell me the reason afterwards.”
Lieberman submitted a statement of operations for the festival, which city finance head Mike Zegarac described as “an improvement” over past years, but not on par with the other boards and agencies.
Zegarac noted the city requests audited financial statements but does not specifically require them. “It’s a practice, not a policy,” he said. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)