Oakland’s First Friday festival struck by theft, resignations and lawsuit

July 30, 2015 - storage organizer

OAKLAND — The nonprofit behind Oakland’s renouned First Friday travel festival is disorder this month after reports of prevalent theft, allegations of financial mismanagement, a remarkable abdication of a treasurer and an delinquent salary lawsuit from a former eventuality coordinator.

Many of a new allegations were suggested in a house assembly for a Koreatown Northgate Community Benefit District, famous as KONO, that sponsors a eventuality that brings thousands of people into a Uptown District any month.

KONO Executive Director Shari Godinez told a organization’s house members that about $1,000 had been stolen progressing this month from a First Friday account — from a sealed box in a sealed filing cupboard in a sealed office, with no pointer of a break-in.

But a confidence measures were mostly for show, several KONO insiders said, since a keys to that bureau were kept in an unbarred drawer in Godinez’s table in a organization’s Telegraph Avenue office. All volunteers had entrance to her desk, that was in a common area.

“To me it’s clearly an inside kind of job,” Godinez pronounced during a Jul house meeting. She afterwards suggested song apparatus valued during $1,200 had been taken from an unsecured storage room during a opposite building after a Jul event.

KONO workers detected a song apparatus was blank usually after behaving a random, prolonged overdue register a day earlier, and a thieves finished certain to leave personal equipment — such as one person’s inscription — that would have lifted suspicions.

The income burglary should have been preventable, sources said, though Godinez apparently kept a keys in a drawer notwithstanding a story of break-ins during a building.

Godinez pronounced a bureau was sealed during night and cumulative with an alarm system.

“I theory maybe we was too trusting,” she pronounced in an talk Wednesday.

The burglary is nonetheless another blow to an classification struggling to find sponsors to keep First Friday alive, notwithstanding a fundraising plan that relies roughly wholly on donations and businessman fees.

And a financial design isn’t removing most brighter. KONO is now confronting a lawsuit from a festivals former events coordinator, Sarah Kidder, whose agreement in Dec wasn’t renewed. Kidder is seeking $20,000 in delinquent labor after earning about $31,000 for 2014, according to her lawsuit.

“Plaintiff would not have achieved all of a labor had she famous her fees would be disputed,” a lawsuit said.

First Friday organizers indicated that Kidder’s agreement wasn’t renewed since she was too costly for a embattled organization, that in Feb took out a $10,000 line of credit from KONO to boost finances. That pierce came after a termination of a festivals in December, Jan and February.

Kidder wasn’t means to find adequate sponsors to cover a events, Godinez said, that directly cost KONO about $12,000. KONO took over First Friday from a tiny proffer cabinet in 2012 that relied on city subsidies; Oakland officials hoped KONO would move structure to a city’s nationally famous eventuality but supervision oversight.

Kidder pronounced a lawsuit was a elementary crack of contract, preferring not to criticism serve until a authorised routine is done.

“I’m not gentle going into details,” Kidder said. “It’s an delinquent check for services rendered.”

Godinez pronounced KONO paid Kidder accurately a volume owed.

“Unfortunately, a approach she interprets it and a approach we did is not a same,” Godinez said. “We paid her a $3,000 a month we concluded to compensate her, each singular month, including a months where we didn’t have an event. She still got paid.”

Financing a eventuality has always been a formidable proposition; a festival creates income from donations from attendees and fees charged to a participating food lorry operators and art vendors.

The city still chips in thousands for Oakland military officers to secure a festival, that shuts down Telegraph from Grand Avenue to 27th Street.

The agreement brawl with Kidder encouraged during slightest some KONO insiders, including a group’s proffer treasurer, Nate Moon, to puncture deeper into a organization’s finances.

KONO is saved by Oakland skill owners along Telegraph from 20th to 35th Street. The owners, who voted to settle a village advantage district in 2007, compensate some-more than $290,000 annually for cleaning, confidence and to move “economic viability” to a area, according to a website.

Moon subsequently detected that embankment donations had forsaken year-to-year notwithstanding assemblage numbers remaining high and began doubt a director’s doing of a money.

In a Jun email to a City Council staffer, Moon wrote that Godinez was profitable herself overtime with First Friday income after surpassing her 35-hour weekly work limit.

That was a defilement of her contract, he wrote.

“Her agreement clearly states that no overtime hours are acceptable but a authorisation of a boss or a executive committee,” Moon wrote.

Moon quit his position as treasurer final week, citing KONO’s “current authorised situation” in a follow-up email to a city staffer. Moon refused to criticism for this story.

Godinez pronounced Moon misread an old-fashioned contract, pursuit his accusations “slander.” She certified some-more compensate for herself since she’s now a First Friday organizer, replacing Kidder. The house refused to sinecure another events coordinator, she said.

“He is secretly creation accusations implying that we did something inappropriate,” Godinez said. “I’ve regularly told (the board) we can’t continue to work First Friday events and my possess pursuit and do a good pursuit on both things.”

As for a thefts, it’s doubtful that any suspects will be identified or hold responsible, during slightest not soon. Godinez reliable she hasn’t gotten around to filing a military report.

Godinez pronounced First Friday is during a crossroads. She concurred that embankment donations are down, and a festival isn’t tolerable with usually donations. The eventuality needs genuine sponsorship dollars behind it to succeed, she said.

“Everybody wants to see it survive,” Godinez said. “But we only don’t know.”

Mike Blasky covers Oakland City Hall. Contact him during 510-208-6429. Follow him during Twitter.com/blasky.

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