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Erie County Executive Attaches Strings to Cultural Funding

By Joyce Kryszak


Buffalo, NY – Some cultural organizations in Erie County are concerned that the county executive is trying to exact control over their operations as a condition of funding.

There are about two dozen cultural organizations that receive funding from the county each year. And they always get a contract at about this time outlining how much. But this year, at least some of those contracts contained a new detail. Erie County Legislative Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli said the small print includes an over-arching, troubling change.

"Contained within their agreement it asks that those culturals re-open their by-laws to expand their board with three ex-officio, voting seats to be named by the county executive at his discretion," said Marinelli. "And [it states] that failure to do so will impair or keep from [them] their funding."

Agnes Bain, who is the head of the African American Cultural Center, confirmed that their contract included the condition that voting members appointed by the Collins administration be added. Bain said their board is weighing their options and trying to sort out if the change is even legal.

Historically, some of the larger culturals have been required to have Administration board members who served as advisors only. That is according to Celeste Lawson who heads the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County. Lawson said she is not sure if this year's contracts contain any new language.

WBFO was unable to reach the county executive or his administration for their comments about whether or not voting members are now required.

Elaine Pyne from the Albright Knox Art Gallery confirmed that, in the past, they have had one advisory member from the county administration on their board, as well as one from the city. She said that was a good arrangement.

"It's been a very successful way for communication to stay open and for them to be good lines of communication," said Pyne.

Right now, the culturals who have received the letters and county lawmakers are trying to find out how sweeping the changes are - and what recourse they might have to refuse them and still get funding.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.