New York State Audit Slams Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Classic Arts News   New York State Audit Slams Saratoga Performing Arts Center
 
A report issued yesterday by the state of New York sharply criticizes the management of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a summer venue in upstate New York.

The report is the preliminary result of an audit, carried out by the state's Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, that was ordered after the SPAC announced in February that the New York City Ballet's three decades of annual residencies at the center would end after the 2004 summer season.

After ballet fans complained about that decision, the center said that the ballet company would return in 2005, but left the long-term status of the residencies up in the air. SPAC president Herbert Chesbrough, at the center of the controversy, agreed earlier this month to step down in 2005.

According to a press release, the audit has found that the decision to end the NYCB residencies was based on "inaccurate and incomplete information" about their cost. The release also notes that SPAC, which was granted a 100-year, rent-free lease by the state at its founding in 1966, is contractually obligated to present the fine arts, and says that the center's role as a summer home for the ballet company was a "central feature" in its creation.

The report also criticizes SPAC's lack of a long-term financial plan and the failure of the center's board to involve itself in day-to-day management. In addition, the audit found that Chesbrough's compensation‹$315,000 a year‹was excessive, as are the terms of his severance agreement, which could be worth as much as $400,000.

"The audit findings confirm a host of questionable expenses, a disproportionate compensation package, and lack of strategic planning," said parks commissioner Bernadette Castro in a statement. "What we have here is a partner with a long-term lease, but short-term vision, incapable of investing in the future."


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