Sandra Travis, program director for Asheville’s festivals, has denied consulting with the Asheville Police Department before deciding not to book a hip-hop act for the Bele Chere festival. However, a new email reveals that one of Travis’ staff believed otherwise, asserting her boss would consult with the APD “about community temperament.” The city omitted the email from an earlier release to Xpress.
“I have had multiple conversations with Sandra about DJ Kool after she spoke with him and I believe she is going to speak with APD about community temperament as per DJ Kool’s request,” Event specialist Cristin Corder Lee wrote in the April 12 email, to Emmy Parker, music chair of the festival board. “I will ask her if she has talked to them so that we can move forward.”
When asked, Travis has denied that she ever consulted with the APD about DJ Kool or any other hip-hop act. She claimed that when she stated “I’ve got a few feelers out in the neighborhoods” in a March 30 e-mail, she didn’t mean police. This April 12 email reveals that Lee, as Travis’ direct subordinate, believed otherwise.
“It wasn’t talking to the APD; it was more just talking to people, getting a feel for what they wanted to see,” Travis told Xpress earlier. “If there’s anything that might impact the festival, regardless of what it is, we need to know.”
DJ Kool has denied requesting that city staff consult with law enforcement.
Despite fitting the criteria in Xpress’ June 20 open records request for emails pertaining to the discussion of hip-hop on the festival line-up — including DJ Kool — the e-mail was not in the batch released on July 20. This is the third email so far that the city is known to have omitted from the request. The two other emails left out include Travis’ March 30 take on her conversation with DJ Kool and an April 28 e-mail from Bill Clarke, contracted by the city as a production manager for the festival, stating that he doesn’t want to endanger Travis’ position. Xpress’ request specified e-mails from both city staff and volunteers dealing with the festival selection process.
— David Forbes, senior news reporter