The City of Eagle is suing one of its former Eagle Arts Commission members, and demanding payment for services officials say he entered into without city council’s permission.
On Thursday, the city filed suit against Mark McAllister, the former chairman of the Eagle Arts Commission, asking the court to make him pay $9,323.50 to two vendors for art projects, as previously reported by KTVB. The suit was served to McAllister as well as Blue Cup Media and Elle Phillps Design, who worked on a documentary project and an art project where poetry from local writers would be installed along the Greenbelt.
This comes after the Eagle Arts Commission was abruptly dissolved during its September 20 meeting, and commissioners were left with questions about why they were being disbanded. City officials told them it was a “restructuring” effort similar to what happened with Eagle’s Historic Preservation Commission, but Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce elaborated further at a meeting in October that the city wanted to take more control over the group due to contracts being signed without the city’s permission.
McAllister could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit, but a letter sent by the former Eagle Arts Commissioners disputed Pierce’s claims. The former commissioners say this dispute stems from administrative failure on the city’s part and a “breakdown in communication.”
“The assertion that any member of the former EAC did not act entirely in good faith is a personal attack on those of us who have volunteered our time, commitment, and reputations in support of the Arts in this community and is not supported by the facts,” the November 29 letter said. “The allegations have resulted in an unfounded community-wide impression of wrongdoing on the part of the EAC, which is unacceptable.”
Since then, the City of Eagle has created a new Eagle Arts Committee with only three members that meets less frequently and has slightly different duties. The deadline for new applications for the committee closed at the end of November.
City issues demand letter, commissioners allege admin problems
McAllister and the City of Eagle exchanged some words through their attorneys before the suit was filed.
On October 18, the city sent McAllister a letter calling the agreements he entered into with Blue Chip Media and Elle Phillips Design “unauthorized” and demanded payment for $7,673.50 to cover the bills.
The letter outlines a similar argument made in the legal complaint, noting Eagle City Code prohibits members of the Eagle Arts Commission from entering into contracts and cannot bind the City of Eagle in any way. If McAllister didn’t pay within ten days, the city threatened to file suit.
“That ordinance prohibition should not be a new concept to you, since you have served on the Eagle Arts Commission for almost three years and in years past, you have participated in the process of the EAC seeking city council approval to enter into a contract for services,” the letter said.
The former Eagle Arts Commissioners sent a request to the City of Eagle on November 29 for a “written correction of the record” acknowledging the work of the former commissioners and how it was within the City of Eagle’s rules, an end to the legal action against McAllister and payment for specific artists who can complete work for the commission and had not yet been paid. It was not specific which artists were still awaiting payment, whether it was those named in the lawsuit or writers who worked on the poetry project and not yet been paid.
The letter from the former commissioners says the group openly discussed projects in their public meetings with agendas, minutes, and videos available online and ensured they were always within the budget set for them by the Eagle City Council for projects and programs. The former commissioners say the process they followed was once projects were approved by the commission, they were then presented to city council for approval, and contracts were issued for the work.
“It must be recognized and documented that there was no communication or consultation with commissioners regarding further approvals or clarifications necessary for projects presented to the city council,” the letter says. “Furthermore, at no time did the city or city staff advise the EAC that an approved project had not been taken forward to the city council for approval or that any EAC project design was problematic for the city to implement. The city failed to communicate any alleged concerns to the EAC in advance of its dissolution, publicly and without notice, and did so while EAC projects were still underway.”
The letter goes on to say that the city’s administrative support likely led to a “breakdown of City communication.” The former commissioners say the city opted to move the staff member who was supporting the commission’s work to the Parks and Recreation Department and the meetings then had to be staffed by five different city staff members, including two who either left the city soon after or were fired. It also alleges city council member Melissa Gindlesperger, the city council liaison to the commission, did not actively participate in meetings.