More city leaders are asking questions about how the Bessie Smith Cultural Center operates. New accountability questions tonight, after the center says nearly $90,000 was stolen. But the thief took the money out of a desk drawer that was locked with a key located in an unlocked safe in the same room.
Thursday, we heard from city councilman Moses Freeman, who sounded the alarm on the people who are running the cultural center. Friday, we found out, other council members are also pressing for answers.
"What was described to me was very disappointing and I have to ask myself, if it was a thousand dollars, I would not have allowed it stay there overnight," said City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem -- making his voice heard about the controversy surrounding the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. And now, he's putting the pressure on the center's 17 board members.
"The board, they're going to set the pattern as to how they're going to move forward and that would be a signal to us as to how they plan to move forward," said Hakeem.
Consequences are important to council members, and the city they represent. After all, taxpayers are footing the bill for more than $126,000 this fiscal year that's being given to the center's operating budget.
That budget was finalized last week, but still up for a vote is the city's capital budget, which allots another $30,000 to the center. "I would like to see some action taken on the part of the board, when I say action, accountability, prior to a final vote and then if not, we need a clear understanding in writing as to how things will move forward in regards to accountability," said Hakeem.
Meanwhile, we are also taking a look at local organizations who have given money to the non-profit. ArtsBuild, formerly Allied Arts, awarded a $15,000 grant during the 2013-2014 time period.
When we asked agency leaders whether the recent investigation is weighing on their minds, they provided us, in part, with this response, after stating that any comment on their part would be premature while the investigation is ongoing: "We take stewardship of our donors' contributions very seriously. Each of our funded agencies undergoes a thorough review of their programs annually by a panel of community leaders."
Meanwhile, we have still not received any official comment from those with the Bessie Smith cultural center regarding how the stolen money was secured that night.
By Natalie Jenereski