Open the books: Kane seeks answers on the August Wilson Center

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For several months, the financial travails of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture have generated many headlines, but few answers. With the center's viability in doubt, Dollar Bank moved in September to foreclose on the four-year-old institution for non-payment of its $7 million mortgage.

A desire by many citizens to see the center succeed has not resulted in a deeper understanding of the institution's problems. Fortunately, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is trying to get answers.

Because of her office's jurisdiction over nonprofits, the attorney general can request information from the caretakers of the August Wilson Center. Last week, Ms. Kane's office secured court orders seeking access to the center's books going back to 2006. The attorney general also wants to move all future business dealing with the center to Allegheny County Orphans' Court, which deals with disputes over charities.

The attorney general's move should not be seen as adversarial, but a step that, with the cooperation of Dollar Bank and center officials, could push the matter toward resolution. A full accounting of the center's assets and debts by Ms. Kane may be the only way to find out whether mismanagement or other factors brought the center down.

Meanwhile, a group headed by former board members is attempting to secure new funding and commitments for the center. That's a noble effort, but potential donors will be eager to learn what happened to the dollars previously given to the August Wilson Center. Ms. Kane's action will be invaluable to finding those answers.


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