Florida Jazz Fest Canceled

After the Lexus Palm Beach Jazz Festival April 11-13 in Wellington, Fla., was postponed and then moved because of standing water at the venue site, the event was then canceled April 10th following the resignation of the director of the Cultural Trust of the Palm Beaches and Lexus pulling its $50,000 sponsorship.

Trust board member Tom Dongilla told the Palm Beach Post he worked as hard as he could to make sure the show would still go on but, "there was just too much that needed to be done."

The trust announced April 8th it was being forced to reschedule the festival because of the water at the site, a vacant lot it rents from the city.

That same day, the event was rescheduled to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Arena. But artists like Spyro Gyra, Joe Sample and Randy Crawford got the news too late because once they heard about the postponement, they made other plans, according to the paper.

Although the festival had found a new home, Lexus pulled its $50,000 sponsorship.

"We would not want to be affiliated with an on-again, off-again, un-Lexus-like event," Cliff Brush, general manager of Lexus of Palm Beach, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "After what they’ve done, they don’t have credibility with us."

The trust’s leader, Manuel Bornia, resigned April 9th, saying that he was forced out by horse show producer Mark Bellissimo, who told him the jazz festival could be held at the equestrian area if Bornia stepped down.

"It has been brought to my attention that in order for the 2008 Palm Beach Jazz Festival to proceed, my resignation has been made a condition by the management and ownership of its new temporary location," Bornia wrote in a statement to the Palm Beach Post.

"I’m disgusted by how this has played out," Bornia said.

After Bornia resigned, nine members of the trust’s steering committee followed suit.

The members simply said, "The undersigned members of the Steering Committee do hereby resign from the Cultural Trust of the Palm Beaches, effective immediately," according to the Post.

Bellissimo, managing partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners, denied Bornia’s allegations.

"For him to imply that I had any condition on his resignation, or whatever, is factually incorrect and libelous," Bellissimo told the Post. "My only goal was to try and preserve the Cultural Trust in Wellington and the Western Communities."

The festival was not the last of the trust’s problems in the week leading up to the event, as a lawsuit was filed against the organization by Birch Development, a company that loaned the organization more than $22,000 last November, the Post reported.

The trust was supposed to pay off the balance by August with monthly payments of more than $2,000 a month, but the organization still owes more than $21,000, according to the lawsuit.

Dongilla said the trust didn’t make the $2,284 payment because it was putting funds back into shows.

"It’s a big check every month and we expected the programs to help us with that," Dongilla told the Sun-Sentinel. "The profits from the programs were poured back into the next programs."

The fate of an amphitheatre in Wellington is also up in the air. A 2002 voter-approved bond set aside $1 million for the trust to build a shed but now county officials are planning to meet with the Cultural Trust and city officials to see if the organization can follow through with the building.

If not, the county commissioners will decide what to do with the money – even though Commissioner Burt Aaronson said the trust has already spent $177,000 of the bond money.

"Should we have entered into an agreement with a trust like this that was on shaky ground?" Aaronson told the paper. "I would be very unhappy if we OK’d any more dollars until this is straightened out."