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COLUMBUS, Ga. — City council has unanimously voted to mandate that a new governmental advisory board for the city’s historic Liberty Theatre must include a CPA as one of its members.
The mandate appears to apply only to the newly-proposed Liberty Theatre & Cultural Arts Center Advisory Board but does not broadly apply to any other CCG boards, giving the appearance of singling out the managerial track record of the financially-troubled cultural arts icon.
During the city council meeting held on July 11, 2023, city councilor Bruce Huff (District 3) moved to amend the newly-proposed city ordinance that would create the board. Huff’s amendments were stated in his own words as follows:
“In section 2-296 on ‘operation generally,’ it states that we will have a nine-member voting board. What I'd like to add is that one of the nine members be a licensed CPA on that board to work with our finance department and the Civic Center.”
Huff also moved to include language that would require quarterly updates from the board:
“I’d like to add (that) along with the finance department there'll be ‘the board chair and Civic Center Director shall report to council along with them to give an annual update as well as a quarterly update’ … I'd like for the board chair and Civic Center Director just to be here just so we know everybody's on the same team and everything's working well.”
After falling into a state of disrepair resulting from 25 years worth of neglect, the Columbus Consolidated Government seized control of the historic theatre in January of this year in hopes of preserving the cultural landmark and restoring it to its former glory.
As a cultural icon of the African American community that first opened its doors in 1925, the Liberty Theatre has proudly hosted some of our nation’s most prolific artists, including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and local blues legend Ma Rainey.
With our city’s local economic reality having proved itself incapable of sustaining the theatre’s operation, CCG decided to bail out the blighted historic structure in hopes of finding grant money to restore its former charm.
CIVIC CENTER CONTROL
The theatre has been under the operational control of the Columbus Civic Center since CCG’s acquisition in January, though the Civic Center itself has fallen into a state of managerial disaster as well.
After the removal of the Civic Center’s former director, Rob Landers, as well as former event services manager Jeremy Ackles, the Civic Center fell under the direct management of deputy city manager Lisa Goodwin as the center’s interim director.
The Civic Center’s operations —and therefore the Liberty Theatre’s — are just one step removed from the direct control of city manager Isaiah Hugley.
A WATCHFUL EYE
Given councilor Huff’s amendments to mandate that the theatre’s board must include its own CPA, Huff — along with the unanimous entirety of council — seem to want to keep a very keen eye on how the theatre’s finances are being managed.
We’re sure this unique requirement and associated oversight has nothing to do with Hugley’s effectively-direct management of the small historic theatre's revitalization, which will include working directly with contractors to move hundreds of thousands of dollars around in what would otherwise be an embezzler’s greatest dream — not that anyone would ever suspect Hugley of capitalizing on something like that, of course.
After all, the Civic Center’s ‘VIP Lounge’ clearly required the six-figure price tag for its marvelous installation.
We’re just saying.
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
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