Arts Center board asks Molly Cornwell to step down


Pictured above: Molly Cornwell and her partner and attorney Tommy Thompson run a gauntlet of supporters on the way to a CVCA board meeting to decide her fate. The meeting was never called to order and the matter will be addressed at the Aug. 7 meeting.

The Cobre Valley Center for the Arts (CVCA) can expect a spike in memberships leading up to its next board meeting, as the matter of Molly Cornwell continues to hover over downtown like a pall of dust blown in from the Valley.

Only board members and members of the CVCA are allowed to attend the meetings, so expect the one on the Aug. 7 to be packed to the rafters with citizens unhappy with what is happening.

The actions of the CVCA board could have repercussions that will change the makeup and dynamics of Globe’s historic downtown in the future and the ripple effects have already begun.

Cornwell is moving her curio shop the White Porch to a new location at 505 Live Oak in Miami, giving a boon to that community and its nascent Miami Business Alliance, which formed two months ago.

Asked to vacate Center

On June 12, she received notice from the CVCA executive board informing her that her lease was not being renewed and requesting her resignation from the board.

“The Cobre Valley Canter for the Arts is electing not to renew your lease,” a letter dated June 12 states. “[T]he lease provides that your personal property must be removed from the CVCA within seven calendar days.”

Citing the “daunting practicalities” of such a move and her contributions to the Globe community, Cornwell was given 30 days instead.

At issue was what the CVCA board referred to as “funneling ticket sales away from the CVCA “for the benefit of [her] business,” and “a breach of loyalty as a board member.”

Although no specific events were cited in the letter, one of the alleged incidents was likely the Home and Cemetery Tour, the latter of which is a Globe-Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Association annual event. Cornwell is on the board of the Downtown Association as well.

The CVCA charges a 9 percent surcharge for tickets purchased through its box office and believes it lost revenues because the Home Tour tickets were purchased through other venues, although the Home Tour was not a CVCA event.

The other allegations surrounded the use of the bottom floor of the facility for a 3-day event called Dinner With a Ghost that took place at the Historic Jailhouse.

Details are murky, though and much of what took place is still under dispute.

But as the story has continued to make its way into the public sphere, support for Cornwell throughout the community has begun to swell.

Public speaks out

At the July 10 Globe City Council meeting, several members of the public spoke up, imploring council to do something about the matter.

“We’re passing a petition around to keep Molly on the board,” Globe resident Victoria Carella said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that building and it’s a community center for all age groups.”

As to the CVCA board, Carella said, “They are accountable to all the people of Globe.”

But there may not be much the city can do except to try to mediate the situation. Although the city owns the building and charges a nominal $1 per year rent, the only influence city council has is a liaison to the CVCA board, Charlene Giles, and it is not even clear if she has a vote or not, although there have been times when she has been allowed to vote.

So on Wednesday, July 11, about 50 concerned citizens sporting signs in support of Cornwell crowded the area around the steps of the Arts Center, many expressing frustration with the actions of the board that was meeting for the first time to discuss the matter.

Fruitless meetings

The CVCA board meeting came on the heels of one called by Mayor Al Gameros, who invited stakeholders to gather around a table to talk about what had occurred.

No members of the CVCA executive board attended Gameros’ meeting.

The executive board is elected by members and consists of President, Leslie Kim; Vice President, Abby Jennex; Secretary, Pearl Nancarrow and Treasurer, Mike Bryan.

Additionally, the CVCA meeting never took place, despite the desire of some board members to allow two members of the public to attend the meeting.

Globe City Manager Paul Jepson sent Economic Development Director Linda Oddonetto to attend in order to monitor the situation.

Also in attendance was local attorney Tommy Thompson, who was there to observe the proceedings and advise Cornwell if necessary. Thompson is also Cornwell’s boyfriend, as the pair united in the wake of the death of Cornwell’s late partner, former CVCA executive director and community icon Kip Culver, whose untimely death in 2015 sent a ripple through the downtown community that can be felt to this day.

Although some members of the CVCA board wanted to allow Oddonetto and Thompson to stay, the meeting was never called to session and after about an hour of wrangling the gathering finally broke up, leaving many involved frustrated at the lack of forward motion.

Executive board issues public statement

The executive board instead issued a public statement on Friday, July 13 explaining its position and expressing disappointment at Cornwell’s “lack of willingness to respond to correction.”

The board stated that not renewing the lease “is not an eviction,” and that “a call for resignation is not the same as removal and is often an early step in calling for the accountability of an erring board member.”

The CVCA bylaws have nothing in place to remove a board member, hence the request for Cornwell’s resignation, although in the days leading up to the aborted meeting, Jennex attempted to amend the bylaws via an email request to the full board.

“One thing people are misunderstanding is the difference between secrecy versus confidentiality,” Jennex said in a subsequent interview. “We have things we have to continue to take care of and keep moving forward [and] to address this that is not putting our board to a standstill.”

The statement continued: “Allow us to assure the community that the Center for the Arts is healthier than it has ever been with clean books and clearer policies and procedures. ... Most of those people though who have been privy to the ins and outs of board life and other important and intimate decisions would be the first to tell you that it often was accompanied by battles for territory and in-fighting, some of it healthy and some of it not. In the same way, we firmly believe that when we weather this storm together, what will emerge is an even more beautiful and strong Center for the Arts for our community and for future generations.”

The cost of a membership to the CVCA is $50 annually and paid members are allowed to attend regular board meetings. The executive board assured the community that it will schedule time for members to make comments at the next regular board meeting on Aug. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the CVCA, located at 101 N. Broad St.

Above and below: Supporters hold up signs expressing love for the iconic Globe resident.

Below: Sheena Puhara, who moved to Globe from Houston, Texas and owns 2 Ladies and a Dress, was on hand to show her support for Molly Cornwell.

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