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Lawmakers Call For Hearing Into Minn. Orchestra Finances

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the Minnesota Orchestra got $14 million in taxpayer funds to renovate its Minneapolis concert hall, they vouched for its financial stability at the time, citing “three balanced budgets in a row.” Now, some lawmakers want a hearing to investigate whether that was truthful.

More than a dozen House lawmakers signed on to a letter to Minnesota Orchestra management, calling for a hearing to find out if they were misled before awarding millions of dollars to the Orchestra.

The stinging letter from 14 Democratic House members raises questions about the ethics of Minnesota Orchestra management.

“Which is it? Are you facing an economic downturn with stability? Or are you running deficits?” asked State Representative Jim Davnie (DFL) Minneapolis. “Did you put three years of balanced budgets on the table successfully? Or did you not?”

Orchestra musicians were locked out Oct. 1 in a labor dispute after the Orchestra got state money. The Orchestra also received $1 million in state Legacy Funds for operating expenses.

But the Orchestra’s Board of Directors spokesman Doug Kelly says the organization has truthfully and ethically revealed all of its finances.

“I am confident that when we testify before them that the legislature will be satisfied that nobody from the Minnesota Orchestra misled them about the budget or our future stability,” said Kelly.

Legislators also want to know if any that money is being used for lawyers, security or any other expense to fund the lockout.

“Are those expenses of running a lockout, which I consider to be an unethical action by any management, are those costs being funded by the public?” Davnie asked.

Kelley from the Orchestra told WCCO-TV Thursday that no state money of any kind was used for any expenses related to the lockout. He also says all of the organization’s finances were examined and certified by an independent outside auditor.

For now, both sides are asking the other to return to the negotiating table to end the lockout.

Even if the lockout ends, the lawmakers with whom we spoke want answers to their questions and will schedule a hearing when the 2013 legislature convenes next month.

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