El Cajon PAC Ousts Manager

The El Cajon, Calif., City Council voted April 26th to end its contract with the nonprofit agency that runs the city’s 1,100-seat East County Performing Arts Center.

In a 4-0 vote, the council decided to remove the Arts Center Foundation and begin looking for a new manager.

While foundation president/CEO Richard Zellner believes the decision was based on “political overtones and undertones,” El Cajon City Manager Kathi Henry offered another reason.

“The way this all started was that they were in breach of contract,” Henry told Pollstar.

Apparently, the foundation’s role had been in danger since last year when it missed a payment to the city. El Cajon reportedly covered the bills and was later reimbursed. But when the organization fell behind, the council declared it in breach of contract with the city.

At an April council meeting, a commission involved in the issue laid out three options: keep ACF as the manager and provide financial support, have the city take over or request proposals for a new manager. Henry recommended the latter, and the council agreed.

In the meantime, Henry said the city plans to temporarily rehire some of the foundation’s employees to run the center.

During its seven-year run, the foundation brought in as many as 40 acts per year, according to Zellner. But last November, the city told him to stop booking concerts beyond June 30th.

“There’s nothing booked for next season,” Zellner told Pollstar. “No one’s going to get hurt financially. The city is going to stand behind all contracts.”

Henry confirmed that no events on the books will be canceled.

Zellner believes it will take at least a year or two before the center gets back on its feet, but Henry is more optimistic.

“I’d guess that we’d be up and running at full speed within a 12-month period,” Henry said. “But in the meantime, we’ll still be booking things over there.

“We’re going to meet with stakeholders to develop the comprehensive [request for proposals], looking for what we want in the theatre.”

– – Mitchell Peters