Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is seeking a full accounting of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture's finances as part of what her office said is a renewed effort to save the imperiled Downtown center.
Dollar Bank moved to foreclose on the Liberty Avenue building in September after it missed months of payments on its $7 million mortgage. With hearings set to resume on the matter, Ms. Kane's office this week secured court orders seeking a full look at the center's books since 2006, and moving deliberations into Allegheny County Orphans' Court, which handles arguments over trusts and charities.
The attorney general oversees state charities, and Ms. Kane signaled that her moves were part of cooperative efforts with Dollar Bank and August Wilson center officials to resolve the funding problems.
"The August Wilson Center is a cultural asset to the community and my office is committed to exploring all appropriate relief to preserve its charitable mission," she said.
In a petition filed last week, the attorney general's office noted that in 2006 the center had $35.97 million to pay for building construction. The funding was comprised of: $17.4 million from government sources; $9 million from foundations; $4.87 million from corporations; and $4.7 million in individual giving. When construction began in 2007 construction was set to cost $21.4 million, land acquisition $6.6 million, and other costs (architecture, furniture and administration) $7.9 million, for a total of $35.9 million.
It opened in the fall of 2009. By 2011, the petition says, the center was not filing the annual financial reports required of nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service.
The petition claims the center still has assets of at least $500,000 at its disposal. Since the center has refused to turn over its books to Dollar Bank and other parties, the petition states, the attorney general's office is seeking a court order to do so.
The ongoing foreclosure battle and the other public and private money sunk into the center, the petition states, "warrant a complete and full accounting of the center's assets to identify any mismanagement and any additional losses."
Some of the center's original board members, including former city Urban Redevelopment Authority director Mulugetta Birru and former city Councilman Sala Udin, are seeking to intervene in the case to secure new funding for the facility. They were due to make their case Monday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward but it was unclear if that hearing would still be held.
County Orphans' Court Administrative Judge Lawrence O'Toole has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Thursday.
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581.
Tim McNulty: email@example.com or 412-263-1581. First Published October 31, 2013 2:47 PM