now clear, however, that that was exactly what he was doing.
The long-awaited audit of SPAC by the New York State Office
of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation was finally
issued on Nov. 22, and the best way to think of the report
is as an executioner’s axe coming down on the hapless longtime
SPAC honcho—and the board that seems to have cheerfully, thoughtlessly
done his bidding.
audit was the ultimate vindication of eight months of public
anger and grassroots organizing to keep the ballet at SPAC.
Within days of SPAC’s announcement, as Mae G. Banner reported
in these pages [Art Murmur, Feb. 19], “supporters of the ballet
began circulating petitions” to save the ballet. Saratogians
like John and Janice DeMarco helped form Save the Ballet,
and began a summer-long drive to raise both money and awareness.
than a month, the tide began to turn against SPAC. Ballet
supporters, the city of Saratoga Springs and—probably most
importantly—local elected officials like Sen. Joseph L. Bruno
(R-Brunswick) and Assemblyman James Tedisco (R-Schenectady)
expressed their displeasure with Chesbrough and the SPAC board
[Art Murmur, March 11].
started to get it, slightly. At Bruno’s (and others’) urging,
SPAC opened their board meetings to the press. Sort of. The
requirements that reporters, including our own Ashley Hahn,
had to fulfill to be one of the lucky invitees were precise
and restrictive to what seemed like an absurd degree.
the important thing was the audit. The state, which leases
the land in the Saratoga Spa State Park on which SPAC sits,
had never done their own audit of SPAC’s operations. And,
when it was released Thanksgiving week, its conclusions proved
to the audit, only 10 SPAC board members (out of 23) were
present at the meeting on Feb. 12, 2004, when it was decided
to terminate the NYCB’s residency. The report concluded: “[This]
caused the audit team to question the process by which SPAC
makes key decisions.”
wanted to an idea of what each SPAC employee actually does.
SPAC did not provide the employee job descriptions and résumés
the auditors asked to see. Conclusion?
duties descriptions for staff with clear delineations of tasks,
responsibilities and qualifications are essential to any business.
This is an area requiring further investigation.”
damning information related directly to the executive style
and performance of president Chesbrough. Chesbrough approved
his own expenses and signed his own checks, of which the auditors
wrote: “Separation of duties in the handling of financial
transactions is a basic principle of financial management.
This is a potential area of risk.”
noted,” the audit continued, “that trips were made to California
and Florida in years when Clear Channel was responsible by
contract for booking events.”
Clear Channel, formerly SFX, the company hired by SPAC to
take over the booking of rock acts from Chesbrough.
found it puzzling that the president’s remuneration was not
correspondingly reduced: “Notwithstanding this substantial
reduction in his responsibilities, the President’s compensation
package was not adjusted accordingly.”
of this chore, Chesbrough was supposed to fill his hours completing
a long-term, strategic plan for SPAC. Didn’t happen, according
to the report: “During the period of time reviewed under this
audit, the salary and other compensation of the President
rose substantially as his job responsibilities were reduced
markedly, while at the same time he failed to devise and implement
a strategic plan or otherwise successfully deal with the deteriorating
financial condition of SPAC.”
well. The rest of the report is just as damning. It turns
out, for example, that the NYCB only lost $20,000 more than
the Philadelphia Orchestra did in the 2003 summer season—information
that was “inconsistent” with the data SPAC presented to the
public in justifying jettisoning the ballet.
likely to happen now? The SPAC board will be reorganized.
Herbert Chesbrough will be gone. His “separation agreement,”
the tres-generous buy-out of the last year of his contract
with SPAC, will be—in the words of Office of Parks, Recreation
and Historic Preservation Commissioner Bernadette Castro—“shredded.”
No $400,000. No free SPAC tickets ’til the mid-teens.
no joy in this. But it’s the first step to getting SPAC back
to what it’s supposed to be: a public-arts asset for the community.
Thursday, Nov. 18, Susan Novotny, owner of the Book House
and the Little Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, celebrated
the opening of her new store in Troy among loads of friends
and supporters. Market Block Books, located at the corner
of 3rd and River streets, will serve as the anchor store for
the multi-million-dollar Market Block development project,
a mission undertaken by Troy developer John Hadley to help
resurrect downtown Troy. The bookstore features modern touches
like wireless Internet (meant to attract RPI students), but
the atmosphere will be reminiscent of Victorian-era Troy.
Saturday, Nov. 20 was the first official day of business for
Market Block Books.