MPAC and the IOUs: a complex situation

[Editor’s update: Randy Bassham, executive director of MAYSA, brought Xpress photocopies of cancelled checks that show that band members and staffers were paid on Sept. 24, 2010, six weeks after the publication of the story below. The checks show that a total of $6,640 was paid out from Bassham to those involved in the July 4th event. Bassham paid the outstanding debts, plus interest.]

The Fourth of July has been and gone, but more than a month later, a holiday celebration in Weaverville is still dogged by controversy. Bands say they haven’t been paid, and a dispute between MPAC, the nonprofit that organized the event, and the PUSH Asheville Fashion show, another local event that had agreed to donate its proceeds to MPAC but then pulled its support, remains unresolved.

Still waiting: Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and at least four other acts still have not been paid for the July Fourth performance. Photos by Halima Flynt

The Weaverville-based MPAC, an arm of the Mountain Area Youth Soccer Association whose primary mission is promoting the development of a multipurpose athletic complex in the area, staged an Independence Day event at North Buncombe High School’s practice soccer fields. At least five acts, including the Galen Kipar Project and Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, say they’re still waiting to be paid. According to their contracts, these groups are owed a total of $4,000, and promoter Erin Scholze is owed $800 for helping arrange the event and book bands.

Randy Bassham, executive director of MAYSA, says he’s working to honor his agreements. “We are fighting the good fight to make sure that all stake holders (including the bands) are paid ASAP,” he wrote in a July 20 e-mail to Xpress.

Stories in collision

Bassham says he’d planned to use the proceeds from the July 16 PUSH Asheville Fashion at The Orange Peel to pay the bands, and that this was made clear to PUSH organizer Sonia Hendrix.

“Sonia is and was well aware that we would not have held the event if we did not have the agreement with Sonia and PUSH that the funds raised at the PUSH event would be used to pay for our 4th event … including the bands,” Bassham wrote in the e-mail.

According to their contracts, however, the bands were supposed to be paid the day of the event — 12 days before PUSH Asheville Fashion. Instead, at least five of them were given promissory notes saying they’d get their money on July 19.

Hendrix, meanwhile, disputes Bassham’s claim. “When I first met Randy to talk to him about his organization, it was made very clear to me that the money we were going to raise for MPAC would be used precisely for the building of said athletic complex,” Hendrix wrote in a July 8 e-mail to Xpress. And while Bassham says he has extensive documentation of his agreement with PUSH, Hendrix denies having had any written agreement with MPAC. In his e-mail, Bassham declined to provide Xpress with a copy of the document, saying, “Our attorneys have advised against sharing this agreement due to impending litigation.”

“It is ludicrous for Sonia to claim that her intent and our agreement was to have the funds go toward building the MPAC complex,” Bassham’s e-mail continues. “We are still in conceptual phases as Sonia is well aware and as I sent you documentation of.”

For her part, Hendrix says she’d been looking for a nonprofit to receive the PUSH proceeds and thought the MPAC project sounded worthwhile, particularly the idea of heated pools for senior citizens.

Where’s the money?

The July Fourth Block Party had been in the works at least since March, and by early May, all the bands in question had been signed, according to Scholze and other event organizers.

Problems at MPAC: Executive director Randy Bassham says he is “fighting the good fight” to pay the performers.

As late as five days before the event, however, organizers were apparently still searching for money. A June 29 article on the Asheville Citizen-Times website stated that the nonprofit needed 15 sponsors to “Save the 4th of July for only $500 each.” The piece was originally published on the Ask Asheville blog, which is run by Gary Charles, MPAC’s director of social media at the time. It’s unclear what response, if any, the plea generated.

As Hendrix sees it, the whole process was flawed. “This is just flat out wrong. … Randy and I never made any such arrangement,” she wrote in her July 8 e-mail. “When I first met him he was already planning this event … The bottom line is that Randy created this production backwards.”

And on July 5, after learning that Bassham planned to pay bands with the PUSH money, Hendrix pulled her support of MPAC, announcing that the proceeds from her event would instead go to the Asheville Grown Business Alliance.

That didn’t sit well with Bassham, however. In a July 13 e-mail to The Orange Peels marketing manager, Liz Whalen, and copied to this reporter, Bassham reiterated his point:

“We are of course incensed about the abrupt change after the tremendous amount of work including helping establish the contact with you for use of the Orange Peel for the event. We have extensive documentation, etc. that a partnership and reciprocal agreement was strongly established. Our Attorneys are confident that Sonia’s change is ungrounded and breach (as well as about 12 other things).

“We greatly respect the very positive relationship that we at MPAC have with you and the Orange Peel and don’t want the Orange Peel caught up in the negativity that is eminent. It is certainly worth review of your contract with Sonia and PUSH. If MPAC is named as the beneficiary in that contract, then there is great reason for concern with the abrupt change.”

Whalen responded that The Orange Peel was simply rented to Hendrix, and that the venue was not responsible for organizing the event.

Last year, PUSH raised $400 for American Rainbow Rapid Response, she notes. The $500 Hendrix says this year’s event raised is earmarked for Asheville Grown.

At this writing, Greg Hollowell of Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band says his group still hasn’t been compensated — despite having reduced its fee because MPAC is a nonprofit. “All Randy tells us is that he’s ‘fighting the good fight’ to get us paid, and we’re at the top of his list,’” Hollowell reports.

Rebecca Sulock can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 113, or at rsulock@mountainx.com.

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33 thoughts on “MPAC and the IOUs: a complex situation

  1. ashevillain7

    Sounds like Bassham needs to get his head out of the sand. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure that you don’t book a festival with the hopes of paying your bills being dependent on a completely separate event. Promissory note? LOL. I feel sorry for everyone that is involved in his convoluted scenario.

  2. Galen Kipar

    Thanks to Rebecca Sulock and Mountain Xpress for bringing this situation to the public’s attention.

    Randy Bassham has made several statements in a string of emails and phone calls to us including, “we are working around the clock, doing about 60 different things to get you paid, I’m working for you here, we are in the same boat here, this is so-n-so’s fault not mine.” One can’t help think things are a little fishy after “run-a-round” statements like these. I know fish and this situation is as fishy as they come. To be clear, Randy Bassham’s name and signature are on the contract and promissory note, not Sonya Hendrix. This is a matter of a producer(Bassham)not taking responsibility for a situation they are responsible for. After not receiving payment on the date issued on the promissory note, we contacted Randy and stated that “If we don’t receive compensation by Aug. 1st we will be forced to get an attorney involved.”
    Check out this statement he made in response to our pursuit of compensation.

    “It will take you much longer to get paid because the first wiff of an attornery and we will dig our heals in (we are not the folks at fault here!), and I made it perfectly clear to you that if you threatened with an atorney again you go to the bootom of the list and will be paid last.

    So, now you have moved from top of the list to the bottom.

    Your email address is now labeled spam a well.”

    Randy
    President
    MAYSA/MPAC/SMYSA

  3. Weaverville Racer

    This is not a complex situation at all. It sounds to me like Mr. Bassham organized an event, hired talent, and then found himself unable to pay his bills. Rather than being a responsible adult, he seems to be placing blaming someone who was only trying to help out his non-profit.

    I for one cannot support any organization that is run by someone who so blatantly shirks his end of an agreement. I encourage other Weaverville folks who would like to see the MPAC athletic complex built to pressure the board of MPAC to remove such an unsavory and deceitful crook. If this is how he handles contracts, you can be sure he is skimming money from the coffers of his organization.

    MPAC will not see another dime of money from me as long as Mr. Bassham is involved in the organization.

  4. ryan1234

    Ditto to what Galen said. The list of his mis-doings goes on, and on, and on…

  5. ryan1234

    Weaverville Racer, you are exactly right. Thank you and tell your friends so this doesn’t happen to someone else in the future.
    Thanks

  6. dirtygremlin

    All shenanigans aside, what kind of paltry sum is $500 after all the fuss of the PUSH show? Seriously, that is the worst return on effort I have ever seen. If I’m not mistaken, each of the designers had to pay $150 to be in the show and hair and make-up was an in kind donation. wow.

  7. TokyoTaos

    What I don’t get is that the PUSH event only raised $500 anyway and MPAC owes $4800 (if I’m reading the numbers correctly) – so even if the money from PUSH went to MPAC there would still be $4300 owed – and if MPAC didn’t have that money upfront they shouldn’t have hired these performers and definitely shouldn’t be blaming PUSH now!

  8. bobaloo

    No, not complex at all. Bassham can’t pay for the event he set up.
    Anyone who had done even a rudimentary background check of MPAC (which has been in “conceptual phases” for years now), NCMAYSA, etc. would have known better. The list of people he’s alienated grows exponentially.
    It’s taken years, but Bassham is finally becoming the societal pariah that he richly deserves.
    I sincerely hope this comes to a court hearing where his nefarious dealings can finally come to light.

  9. Anna

    I’ve been wondering for a long time, what the financial situation of this so called non-profit organisation is. We’ve heard about the plans for years,(the banners read ‘coming soon’) how much exactly has been donated so far, what happened with the money? Can Mtn. Xpress check into this or is this all just a scam?

  10. Sam H Wood

    I smell a rat.. the same rat I smelled the first time I ever laid my snoffer on it.. several years back.. in a related setting.. a simple definition would be “goes around comes around” or perhaps “only famous for his own sake” or what if “righteousness is as righteousness does?” Is there a redemption song? I sense that there is no redemption song to be played here.. only a desperation and dying swan song.. good riddance!

  11. propagate.eustress

    I just wanted to share my experience with the MPAC 4th of July celebration. I commented a bit about this on the 5th. I do not know what the situation or pre-arrangement with the bands was, however I find it very hard to trust anything that MPAC says.

    All of their promotional material used not only the music to draw people in, it also stated that you could see the Asheville fireworks. In fact, their webstate STILL states that “The field is set in a natural amphitheater by a hill side overlooking the city of Asheville, with a great view if the Asheville fireworks display (Actually- Weaverville’s “secret spot”)!”
    (http://buncombempac.blogspot.com/)

    To bad we believed them. There was absolutely no view of the fireworks. My friend and I, along with the three children under 10 we brought along with us, completely missed out on the true highlight of any 4th of July event. Not to mention that on top of us being disappointed as adults, we had to try to explain to three little boys why they waited all day in the hot sun to see a fireworks show that would never happen, and that they would have to wait until next year to get the chance again.

    I wrote to Randy (Randy@myMPAC.com) the next day to express my frustration at missing the fireworks, as well as the let down it was to my 8 year old son and his two friends. The worst part is, that if we had known we couldn’t see the fireworks from there, we had plenty of time after the booty band ended and the fireworks began to drive back to Asheville and find a place to view them. We would have still came out and supported MPAC during the day and enjoyed the music that played until dusk. Instead, after the end of the music, we sat around for an hour waiting, along with at least 100 other adults and children, for the fireworks to begin. My email was instantly returned as undeliverable due to a “fatal error”. How ironic.

    I almost tried to talk my friend out of going to this event. I went last year, and none of the announced bands that I wanted to see actually played. That happened again this year with Afromotive not playing. Perhaps they knew they would not be paid.

    Last year I was smart enough to take my family back to DT Asheville to see the fireworks, and I honestly do not think they tried to promote that you could see them from there. I thought is sounded like an odd thing since they did not promote it last year. The person directing parking traffic told us that they discovered last year that they were indeed viewable from the school. Again, if we had not been reassured that it was true, we would have left in time to see them.

    To bad we trusted MPAC and wanted to support their “community building” event this year. I am all for building community, but I will not support MPAC or any of their causes. I think it is great that Sonia from PUSH is giving the money her event raised to an organization that is TRULY building community, and not just using the term as a marketing ploy to line their own pockets.

  12. Bill

    PUSH Asheville and MPAC are an embarrassment to Asheville but Randy Bassham takes the cake. We’ve seen it before when Jack Ballard, the organizer for the Loki Festival, bounced checks to the venue and most of the bands that performed including Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. Jack Ballard and his girlfriend Gabrielle who both went to UNCA, split town with everybody’s money and has never shown his sorry face in this town again.

    Randy Bassham has demonstrated he is not the right person to run an civic organization. His post-event comments have included apologies while promising that “it’s going to get ugly”. If he cannot settle a $4500 discrepancy with local bands and is willing to stonewall attempts to get paid to local hard working bands and willing to as he said in his own words, that things are going to get ugly, it shows that he is not the proper person to run a large event facility in our community.

  13. Rebecca Sulock

    Anna, Xpress would like to know more about the questions you’ve asked. In most cases, nonprofits are required to file Form 990s with the IRS, which are then available online via Guidestar. Our search did not turn up any of these forms for NCMAYSA or MPAC (an initiative of NCMAYSA).

    Bassham told us in an Aug. 8 e-mail that the organization’s accountants “have advised us that because ncMAYSA has not yet received any donations in excess of $10,000, we have not been required to file any 990’s.”

  14. fleah

    It’s about time this all came to light.

    Is the 10,00 need to the total of one donation to require a 990, or can it be total of donations?

  15. fleah

    sorry, can’t type…

    I meant, is the amount of 10,000 the sum of one donation, or is it a total amount of all the donations.

  16. Anna

    Does the organization even have accountants? If MPAC is not able to pay the $4800.00 debt from the event, how are they able to pay accountants and attorneys? It seems like Bassham is not able to support any of his claims with actual documentation. As a matter of fact he handles it with attempts of intimidation and bullying, like he is hoping nobody will “dare” to check any further.
    My question is: What have the donations been used for? Thanks for starting/trying to shed some light onto this shady business venture. To have a multi purpose complex in this area is a great idea, but I think Bassham has proven over the last few years that we wouldn’t want somebody like him have anything to do with it.

  17. David Roat

    I dealt with Bassham in early ’09 and this sounds exactly like the type of bullshit that he pulled with me. He misrepresented himself as a potential employer to get me to give him detailed estimates of what it would take to build a proper donor database and to develop a political strategy. All the while, he not only had no funding, no commitments for funding, no leads for commitments for funding, he had no written plan to get leads for commitments for funding.

    I’m surprised its taken this long for a spotlight to find its way to him.

  18. barrypaysmybills

    I hope Xpress stays on this story. If for no other reason than to make sure that if this is the rat it smells like, the public is informed and can make wise decisions about providing future financial support. Good investigative reporting on this one would be a great community service.

    It appears there are many organizations that have paid sponsorship money to support mpac and there needs to be accountability as to where that money is going. Is the President/Executive Director paying himself a salary to provide leadership during the “conceptual stage” of this grandiose project? Without being close enough to know, this whole thing sounds like it is based on delusional thinking at the helm. If the folks and organizations listed on the MPAC site have a financial investment in the project then I hope they are informed about how their money, even if it is “sponsorship” and not just a “donation”, is being spent. Here are lists of supporters and sponsors currently listed on the MPAC site. Some of these folks and companies might be concerned about the publicity that association with MPAC will bring. Radio stations, grocery stores, colleges and universities, health care professionals and a long list of pretty reputable local businesses and organizations. If they are listed as sponsors without any financial commitment, just to give credibility to the “fundraising effort”, that is equally concerning.

    http://www.ncmaysa.com/Who's behind MPAC 9.pdf
    http://www.ncmaysa.com/working/Sponsors Listing2.pdf

    I personally would not support any tax exempt not for profit that claims to have no need for transparency in their finances. Public transparency is a key concept in having the 501 c 3 IRS exemption. Essentially, the concept is tax payers foot the bill for tax exempt organizations because they are doing work on behalf of the community that the government can not do, and with that is very beneficial financial status comes a very high level of accountability to the public. Saying that they do not need to file the IRS form 990 seems to be the equivalent of saying “we are so small we do not need to be transparent in our finances”. I am not sure the IRS would be happy with that stance.

    If they really have an accountant, I would imagine that year end financial statements are produced for the Board of Directors, and that these would detail all the revenue and where the money is going. Maybe Xpress just needs to ask the Treasurer of the Board? I cut and pasted the following from an MPAC email that I saved a while back. It is still used in recent email and on their website: NCMAYSA is a determined, vetted 501(c)(3) non profit. Federal Non Profit ID # 20-4450650. Perhaps there is some misunderstanding of the definition of the word “vetted”

    There are also serious state and federal laws regarding the fiduciary responsibility of the Board of Directors when it comes to a 501 c 3 organization’s finances. Many people feel honored to serve on the boards of not for profits without realizing that they have legal obligation and liability. This is also an important part of the whole tax exempt deal. Real people need to be accountable that the work of an organization and its business dealings are in the best interest of the community they are serving in exchange for this great financial status. The IRS makes this happen by holding the directors responsible, personally. This fiduciary responsibility is very well understood and respected in many non profits and not understood at all in others. I hope the organization has had enough money to purchase liability insurance for officers and directors. I would hate it if good folks got caught up in a situation where they have legal and financial liability that they did not realize they had when they felt “honored” to be invited to serve on the board. With a IRS tax exempt 501 c3 not for profit, a seat on the board is not just a voice in the organization, but it is a serious obligation to the IRS, not to mention the state laws that govern not for profits. Credible not for profits tell their directors that they have coverage for officers and directors, and informed people, the kind that the IRS would like to have overseeing organizations that do not have to pay taxes, know to ask about this.

    I hope this turns out better than it appears it will for everyone involved.

  19. @ Barrypaysmybills.
    You certainly appear well educated as to fidiciary responsibilities….wish you had been on the Board I was on and got run off immediately upon asking for my clarification on the financial dealings.

    “There are also serious state and federal laws regarding the fiduciary responsibility of the Board of Directors when it comes to a 501 c 3 organization’s finances. Many people feel honored to serve on the boards of not for profits without realizing that they have legal obligation and liability. This is also an important part of the whole tax exempt deal. Real people need to be accountable that the work of an organization and its business dealings are in the best interest of the community they are serving in exchange for this great financial status. The IRS makes this happen by holding the directors responsible, personally. This fiduciary responsibility is very well understood and respected in many non profits and not understood at all in others. I hope the organization has had enough money to purchase liability insurance for officers and directors. I would hate it if good folks got caught up in a situation where they have legal and financial liability that they did not realize they had when they felt “honored” to be invited to serve on the board. With a IRS tax exempt 501 c3 not for profit, a seat on the board is not just a voice in the organization, but it is a serious obligation to the IRS, not to mention the state laws that govern not for profits. Credible not for profits tell their directors that they have coverage for officers and directors, and informed people, the kind that the IRS would like to have overseeing organizations that do not have to pay taxes, know to ask about this.”

  20. mividaenmayberry

    I think the comments from Bill on down the blog are hitting at the heart of the matter in exposing what is truly disturbing about Bassham other than the “dillusions of grandeur” in an alternate reality. The key to unlocking the mystery behind this figure is in the non-profit financial statements. I’m glad someone mentioned Guidestar because that’s also a very tell-tale sign something is not lining up.

    I remember when MPAC first started sending out those mass emails and the phases of the project were conceptualized. The first phase was “Administrative Expenses” and then so on with phase two and three. Since MPAC appears to be still in Phase One, I would bet a majority of donations are going to admin expenses which means salary for the the board CEO among the other payments they make (if they ever make them) to vendors and entertainment for the small events they hold.

    The trail of suspicion is a long road behind this person, hopefully his true nature will be brought to light.

  21. bobaloo

    I’d also like to know what the connection Mountain Xpress and MPAC is.
    Jeff Fobes is listed as an advisory member and is listed as a donor (of $500) for the July 4th “Block Party”. How about a little disclosure for journalisms sake?

    Is this a purely personal decision on the part of Fobes or is this something that the Xpress endorsed as a whole?
    I seem to recall making some critical comments about MPAC and Bassham on a previous article in MX that were removed, then receiving an email from Fobes himself telling me they were deleted because I couldn’t back up my assertions.
    Is this inquiry into Basshams dealings simply Fobes serving his own self-interest?

    http://buncombempac.blogspot.com/2009/06/mpac-board-and-advisory-members.html

  22. C-Mini

    Many of the organizations listed as supporters as well as “advisory” members and even board members have had nothing to do with MPAC for years. It seems that anyone that showed any support for the idea, had their name added to the website and never removed even after requesting it be done.
    Just more evidence of the half-truths and misrepresentation.

  23. mividaenmayberry

    bobaloo, that is an interesting point and might explain why MountainX was so supportive of Bassham in the beginning but this shouldn’t turn into an inquiry regarding that. At least MountainX is allowing this to develop on their site and since they’re asking questions now, maybe they’ll be true journalist and get to the bottom of the Bassham problem in the community.

    Still good point bobaloo but I would bet based on the bullying mentioned earlier in this blog, Bassham probably threatened MountainX if they published your assertions from back then. Seems to be the pattern of this person.

  24. bobaloo

    While that may be true there is obviously still some link between the publisher of MX and Bassham, whether on a personal level or otherwise.
    In the interest of teh journalisms it would probably be prudent to disclose this, especially considering Bassham is touting a $500 donation made by Fobes.

  25. Jeff Fobes

    For transparency’s sake: I’ve known Randy Bassham casually for several years and have been supportive of his efforts to create a sports complex in north Buncombe. In that supportive manner, I personally loaned MPAC $500 in June to help ensure that the July Fourth party came off.

    Independent of that, and without knowledge of my personal connection to Randy Bassham and MPAC, Managing Editor Rebecca Sulock decided to investigate claims and counterclaims arising from the July Fourth party. Her reporting work on this matter has been edited by Senior Editor Peter Gregutt, while I’ve purposely removed myself from the process.

    It was recently called to my attention that I’m listed as an MPAC advisory board member. It’s possible I informally agreed to help some years ago, but that has never translated into anything formal such as meetings.

    — Jeff Fobes, Mountain Xpress publisher

  26. fleah

    There are lots of people on that list that are no longer on the board. Lots of name dropping going on to try to add credibility to the “organization”.
    I know two people personally who haven’t been affiliated in a long time who’s names are still listed. Also, a third person who’s organization is owed $700 from a few years back for a performance at the Orange Peel. They have been listed for several events and haven’t participated because of the money owed them.

  27. bobaloo

    I personally loaned MPAC $500 in June to help ensure that the July Fourth party came off.

    Loaned or donated? Either way, kiss that money goodbye.

  28. Here’s a clue to anyone considering donation to any cause.
    Don’t do it without total transparency.

    There was a sea of red flags on this field for some time.

  29. boatrocker

    Oh jeez, no computer access for greater part of a week (voluntary) and I see a story about every working musician’s worst nightmare.

    Ms. Sulock, nice work in bringing this story to the public eye. I must admit I’m biased against anyone who shafts music makers for pay.

    Galen K., high five for posting the email response you received for the public eye. I’m hoping you rely on legally binding contracts for performances in the futire when booking a la “fool me once, shame of you, fool me twice, shame on me”.

    Bill’s post mentioning the Loki Festival bouncing checks to bands was mentioned in a thread way way back in 2008 or 2009 in relation to asking local/regional bands to play for free/tips only. It didn’t generate much rational discourse but was grear PR for those asking for musical pro bono work. The recurring theme was if you can’t pay for live music, don’t book it.

    Would doing the right thing and asking local music fans to boycott future productions from said “organizations” like the recent July 4th/Loki Festival be a good thing or would that take too much critical thinking on people’s part who spend $ to hear music?

  30. Kilgore

    Is there going to be a follow up to this story? I think it is in the publics best interest to know if MPAC has followed through and paid the bands as it was obligated to do. Not to mention the questions surrounding the entire event. How was the $500 from PUSH going to help them when they owe a total of $4800 dollars? Why did they promise that the fireworks in Asheville could be viewed from that spot? How has MPAC been using the money from previous donations?

  31. fleah

    Yes, we would love to hear the follow up on this story. Not only the bands payment situation, but if there was every anything found on how the rest of the money they’d raised was spent.

  32. Rebecca Sulock

    Hello all! Please note the editor’s note at the top of the story: Bassham paid the outstanding debts for the July Fourth event in September. Checks were issued with interest.

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