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Crunch time: 100 Minnesota Reps demand audit of the orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra lockout is now a political hot potato.
Minnesota House of Representatives
March 7, 2013
Jim Nobles
Office of the Legislative Auditor
140 Centennial Building
658 Cedar Street
Saint Paul, MN 55155
Dear Mr. Nobles:
 The Minnesota Orchestra is a world class performing arts organization. It adds immeasurably to the quality of life in Minnesota through its performances at both Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and in schools and communities across the state. The State of Minnesota invested significantly in a fact and future of the orchestra as a world class entity. It places Minnesota on the map nationally and internationally and adds to our region and state’s economic competitiveness.
In recognition of that status, the State of Minnesota invested $16 million in public monies through bonding dollars to assist in the remolding of the lobby of Orchestra Hall and provides operating funding through ongoing Legacy dollars. We mow find the return on those investments threatened by the lockout of the musicians and the logjam that the orchestra management and musicians’ representatives currently find themselves in.
News reports and review of Orchestra President Michael Henson’s 2010 legislative testimony raise questionsabout the Orchestra’s financial situation with the public and legislators when requesting and receiving $14 million in bonding for a new lobby on Orchestra Hall. After the House Legacy hearing of February 18, 2013, there remains concerns about the public’s investments in the state’s largest arts organization.
The request and subsequent granting of Legacy funding for the 2012-2013 biennium was contingent and assuming that there would be an Orchestral season, since the current season has not begun and is cancelled through the beginning of April, gives us pause and concerns about the state’s investment. A portion of the State Arts Board of funding is to provide educational and community concerts throughout Minnesota. We understand that the lockout has denied youth from across Minnesota exposure to the Orchestra, as well as cancellations of concerts or events in the following communities: Bemidji, Osseo, Chanhassen, Forest Lake,St. Cloud/St. Joseph, and Winona.
It is in the State of Minnesota’s interest that this lockout be resolved in the quickest possible manner. Resolution of the lockout, the securing of a new contract between management and performers will allow the Minnesota Orchestra to return to its core mission of performing and educating across the region.
A quick resolution will act to assure the preservation of the current corps of Grammy-nominated musicians, and assure a return on the public’s investment in this important cultural institution, its capital needs and operating budget. Therefore, in representation of the state’s interests and assurance of the value of and return on its investments we the undersigned members of the Minnesota legislature request that the Legislative Auditor audit the books of the Minnesota Orchestra Association, including a review of its feasibility study for the remodeling of Orchestra Hall, a review of the use of all public funds, and of testimony of Orchestra principals before legislative committees for and about securing of those funds.
Respectfully,Rep. Jim Davnie Rep. Rick Hansen Rep. Alice Hausman Rep. Jean WageniusRep. Susan Allen Rep. Tom Anzelc Rep. Joe Atkins Rep. John BensonRep. Connie Bernardy Rep. David Bly Rep. Kathy Bryneart Rep. Lyndon CarlsonRep. Karen Clark Rep. Raymond Dehn Rep. Zachary Dorholt Rep. Roger EricksonRep. Andrew Falk Rep. Tim Faust Rep. Peter Fischer Rep. Mike Freiberg Rep. Patti Fritz Rep. Laurie Halverson Rep. Debra Hilstrom Rep. Frank HornsteinRep. Melissa Hortman Rep. Jason Isaacson Rep. Clark Johnson Rep. Sheldon JohnsonRep. Phyllis Kahn Rep. Tina Liebling Rep. John Lesch Rep. Ben LienRep. Diane Loefler Rep. Tim Mahoney Rep. Carlos Mariani Rep. Sandra MasinRep. Jay McNamar Rep. Carly Melin Rep. Jason Metsa Rep. Rena MoranRep. Will Morgan Rep. Joe Mullery Rep. Mike Nelson Rep. Jerry Newton
State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155-1298
State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155-129
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  1. Terry Carlson says:

    Now we’re cooking! The letter requests looking into “testimony of Orchestra principals before legislative committees for and about securing of those funds.” Someone please get Michael Henson a few aspirin tablets; he’s going to need them.

    Copy of letter here:

  2. Glad to see my state rep (Jay McNamar) on the list.


  3. This is the proper direction in starting a first step of discovery of facts on whether the chronic waste of public resources/funds is to be subjected to revoke the Orchestra’s 501 c (3) tax-exempt status. Of course, another question could be: Have any books been cooked by the management when they signed a contract with the state government for the innovation of the concert Hall?

  4. Excellent!

    And just for clarity – it is not signed only by the Reps, but also Senators – which is, in actuality, far more impressive. Sending a bicameral letter makes a much bigger statement.

    A total of 100 lawmakers, or about half of the legislature, will make a big impact, undoubtedly.

  5. Stephen says:

    My guess is an investigation will not resolve the issue but will shed light on what will be next. It would be too early to guess where this might go but it’s definitely going to go somewhere, provided the Legislative Auditor’s work is not narrowly defined. We should want this work exhaustive and complete with all the ducks in a very tight row. If that’s the case, there most probably won’t be music from the Minnesota Orchestra this year and that will start a chain of events all its own.

    Whatever happens, it will be interesting and I hope you keep on it Norman.

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