[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.
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.
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 Peel’s 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 email@example.com.