Read the Memos At the Center of the Arts Center Controversy

A series of city memos, obtained by public records request, are a window into what happened before Karen Prasser resigned in September and before the city began its investigation.

Documents in Karen Prasser's personnel file reveal reasons for why she resigned as director the Solon Center for the Arts and shed light on the city's pending investigation under the fraud policy.

Read the documents in the window above. The documents attached include:

  • Karen Prasser's resignation letter (dated Sept. 6, 2012)
  • Memo from Karen Prasser, defending her performance (Sept. 4, 2012)
  • Memo from Finance Director Dennis Kennedy to Prasser about financial issues with the Friends of the Solon Center for the Arts (May 17, 2012)

Some of the contents of the documents were first reported by the Chagrin Solon Sun.

In May, Finance Director Dennis Kennedy sent Prasser a memo detailing his concern about the arts center's accounting practices with Friends of the Solon Center for the Arts, a non-profit that fundraises for the SCA but is not affiliated with the city.

Prasser resigned in Sept. 6 and days later the city announced it was investigating the arts center for "irregularities" under the fraud policy.

Two days before she resigned, Prasser wrote a 4-page memo to Human Resources Director Tom Cornhoff, essentially defending her performance.

Harry December 05, 2012 at 12:38 PM
It appears to me that most of this would be a big "so what" if SCA were an entirely private/non-public sector organization. Since SCA was under the umbrella of the city many of the sloppy or lax operational and accounting activities are probably not permissible according to state law and the city's codes and ordinances. It appears to me what has transpired here was a case of empire building "in the name of the arts" vs. somewhat of a witch hunt to build city hall's case against Prasser, SCA and FSCA. Some things that surprise me in this correspondence is the Solon Historical Society's willingness to pay $2100 for Prasser to attend a conference in LA. This is an organization that regularly sends out requests for donations. It surprises me that SCA had become so grandiose that it would spend $13,000 to bring in a Metropolitan Opera soprano to sing with the Solon Philharmonic. What this does is continue to fan the debate as what the intended purpose of SCA when it was first founded. Was it ever intended to for this mid-sized suburb to host Light Opera, Philharmonic Orchestras, etc. out of that little building? And if it wasn't why weren't the reigns and better controls put on it until Prasser was forced out under the guise of the city's new "fraud" policy? Politics played a big part in this on both sides which led to this very foul smelling situation at hand.
Rocco December 05, 2012 at 02:55 PM
And I'm certain we don't know the half of the story. As for the money for the Opera singer, remember that was all being paid for with the CAC grant money. Not a dime of city money. The stipulations for the grant are to bring art forms that otherwise would NEVER be able to happen to the city you request the grant for. It would have been AMAZING to hear someone like that sing with the tiny Solon Philharmonic and for those musicians to have that experience. And remember that CAC APPROVED IT by GRANTING SOLON THE MONEY!!!
Harry December 05, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Was the city required to match that grant or was it totally free?
Anne December 06, 2012 at 12:21 AM
The arts center was meant to be be a city department, part of the rec. The Save Old City Hall Committee never raised funds to open a county or regional school of the arts. There was supposed to be a little theater open to Solon residents. My husband and sons appeared in a couple of those productions - then those productions stopped and the direction changed. I could say more, but those who tell the truth are punished.
Harry December 06, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Were you one of those punished? If so how? I am just doing a little fact finding of my own. Also if I recall correctly didn't the Founders efforts stall because they could not come up with the funding to renovate the building?
Anne December 06, 2012 at 01:48 AM
No our efforts did not stall. We had to wait for paperwork, structural inspections and repairs. It took two years to raise the money. My husband and Rick Mendelsohn wrote the grant that opened the doors We had regular meetings that were well attended. My sister was secretary of the committee, I was on the awareness programming commiitee. Yes I was punished so I do not advise telling the truth under any circumstances. Certain things will remain swept under the rug.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 01:59 AM
We worked very hard to provide a clean, safe, accessible building for everyone to enjoy. We made sure bathroom stalls could accommodate wheelchairs, that furnishings were durable and comfortable. We made sure the original wood floor was restored. We made sure that parking met ADA compliance. The committee put blood, sweat, and tears into restoring that building and I feel that we deserve respect and thanks for our efforts. Taking care of those details took time and care. I can't stress enough that our group was made up of volunteers.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Is there a specific reason you don't feel like you received respect and thanks? And how were you punished? There seems to be a bit of drama here. Were you in the shows?
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Harry, any grant from CAC has to be matched, and you have to show before you receive the grant HOW the grant will be matched. It would not have been matched by funds from the city, but by ticket sales and donor commitments.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Anne, those productions stopped because they were not money makers. All programs at the Arts Center have to cover their costs, theater for adults did not make any money. It is sorely missing from SCA and I hope it comes back. But it was not because of a change of direction.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 02:24 AM
I will not discuss the punishments, but I am not alone. It was scary and nasty. I was not in the shows. I don't know why we were not formally thanked, as a group.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:27 AM
You make it sound like flogging and public stone throwing. Did the mayor at the time, was it Paulson, or Patton, not thank the group formally? If not, they should have.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 02:30 AM
It was Patton, and he did not. He did stop in briefly at one of our meetings and handed out pens with his name on them that didn't work. He didn't seem very interested in the process, nor did he offer support in any way.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Yet you kept working on the project. If you only did it to be thanked, then you should be upset. If you did the volunteer work because you believed in the end result, then move on! That's a lot of ill will to hold onto for a decade. And if you did it for the end result, then you should be quite proud of what you helped create, a regional arts center that has been recognized nationally.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:36 AM
And what were you punished for? You didn't say.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 02:41 AM
We did not work for thanks, but we worked very hard and accomplished something great. We did a fantastic job raising money and refurbishing a building that some wanted to demolish. All of us believed in the end result. It is not a regional arts center. It is a department of the city. I believe that we gave the city a gift, and common courtesy is to be thankful for gifts.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 02:43 AM
I won't be giving details, Rocco.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Then I can't help you. And I thank you for your work on the arts center. But I also believe in passion and vision, and what it became was a great addition to our city. City department doesn't mean it has to be small minded.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 10:46 AM
I do not need your help Mayor Drucker and Rob Pelunis know the story. The truth will come out in the investigation. Remember, the police are doing the investigation, not the mayor, not council.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I sincerely hope that all of the original volunteers will be welcomed back to the arts center and treated with normal courtesy and I stress the courtesy part. As I've said before, sometimes you have to go backward in order to go forward. As for that disgusting patio? I hope that never happens again. Why would anyone donate a penny when there wasn't an approved design? Why were the rights of disabled people disregarded in respect to access to the building in that conceptual design? There is no need to replace a brick patio with a brick patio. The arts center is not the place for a MusiCarnival like facility.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Rocco, the house was full or there were only a very few empty seats for each of the community based performances. You can't do better than a full house. It was fun for the actors and the audiences. Remember, the arts center is a CITY DEPARTMENT for Solon residents to enjoy.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:17 PM
You're right, you can't do better than a full house, but a full house doesn't pay all the expenses. You need donors in most cases to underwrite the performances to break even or pay the bills. You should know that since your sister is head of the theater dept. at Fairmount - wait, aren't they the group having financial issues? I just remembered that. Above you asked why would anyone donate a penny for a disgusting patio? It seems no one donated a penny, they donated thousands! And from what I remember at the council meeting, there was a wonderful conceptual design done by Cawrse and Assoc. Do you think an organization like University Hospitals would have donated $125,000 for a disgusting, not yet designed project? As for volunteering at the Arts Center, you should probably just go there and offer your help. I bet they would welcome it.
kindleberry1 December 06, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Ann are you saying that the original volunteers were banned from SCA? Are you also part of this investigation. You seem to know so much about all of this.
Harry December 06, 2012 at 04:17 PM
It appears to me that Anne needs to separate her hatred for the past vs. the reality of the present. Maybe she is part of this investigation. She has repeatedly stated the Prasser and Solon's HR director threatened her sister and family and it fell on deaf ears with the former mayor. Is the current mayor listening to her? If true then why did it take 2 and 1/2 years into her term to do anything about it? Is what Anne remembers from the past in part fractured tale or did it really happen? If it happened and was as bad as she says it was how come no action was taken until now? I have my suspicions as well as doubts about a lot of this.
kindleberry1 December 06, 2012 at 07:03 PM
@Ann, again, are you saying that whatever" terrible" thing happened to you and other volunteers is part of this investigation? Why are the taxpayers of Solon just hearing about these supposed "terrible" things just now? I have to think about Harry's comment. Is this about reality or your hatred for something or someone?
Anne December 07, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Council and the mayor were informed when the incidents happened. I'd be happy to talk to an investigator if called, so would some other people. You may be very surprised at what comes out in the investigation, but you will just have to wait like the rest of us. I could not care less what you think. The truth is the truth and there is written proof. Remember, according to previous newspaper articles, The police and prosecutor are handling the investigation. I applaud the mayor and council for finally going in the correct direction.
Anne December 07, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Yes, many of the original volunteers were made to feel very unwelcome.
Kelly March 17, 2013 at 01:22 PM
You really need to remember Anne that just because you envision something to be a city department does not mean that it can't grow to be something greater. Often to grow to be something greater they need to get rid of people who only want one thing and no growth. Which I can only assume you have not grown at all considering you are a grown woman holding on to so much bitterness and hate over not being given a pat on the back for something that happened a decade ago.
Anne March 17, 2013 at 02:01 PM
I was there at the beginning of the arts center as a volunteer. The arts center was designated to be a city department that fell under the rec department. There has not been any paperwork indicating that the arts center is a regional center. Look at the city website, look at the arts center website, look at the print material from the arts center. It's clearly a city department and that's the way it will remain until (and if) it becomes a regional center, legally. If you listened to council, you would have heard councilman Russo say that it is a CITY DEPARTMENT. Anyone who attended the "dance meeting" held approx. 10 yrs. ago understands what happened and why. Don't forget we had a very weak city government at that time.
Anne March 17, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Kelly, again, the arts center is a city department. It has NOT been designated as a regional arts center. Look at the city and arts center websites. Change in status must be done legally and we would hear about it at city meetings and the media. For now, regardless of what anyone says or thinks, it is a CITY DEPARTMENT.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something