June 30, 2022


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Jazz Fest Basis sued by former board chairs; allegations hidden from the general public | Louisiana Festivals

Two former chairmen of the board that controls the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Pageant have sued the nonprofit. However precisely what they hope to realize from the dual lawsuits has been hidden from the general public.

Equivalent petitions filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Courtroom in March by Michael Bagneris, a former decide of that courtroom and 2017 mayoral candidate, and Demetric Mercadel, a retired Entergy government who now works for the U.S. Consultant Troy Carter, requested that their lawsuit in opposition to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Pageant and Basis Inc. be allowed to proceed underneath seal.

“The subject material of this litigation includes a non-public and delicate matter which issues discrete issues involving the privateness pursuits of the events, together with the defendant, which ought to be shielded from public scrutiny and outweigh any scrutiny public”, the requests learn partly.

Michael Bagneris, seen right here through the mayoral candidates debate on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 at Dillard College, is a previous president of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Basis, the nonprofit that owns Jazz Fest. He and one other former president sued the inspiration.

JazzFestGala04 (copy)

Demetric Mercadel attends the Jazz & Heritage Gala on April 26, 2018 on the Hyatt Regency Lodge in New Orleans.

Civil District Courtroom E Division Choose Omar Mason signed the sealing order for Bagneris’ trial on March 22. J Division Choose Nicole Sheppard sealed Mercadel’s trial on March 28.

It’s uncommon for a lawsuit to be sealed out of sight. The few authorized paperwork out there within the courtroom file point out that Bagneris and Mercadel are asking for “particular execution, injunction and declaratory judgment”.

Though the allegations within the lawsuits haven’t been made public, they observe main adjustments to the Jazz & Heritage Basis’s bylaws.

These adjustments, in keeping with a number of sources accustomed to the board’s operations, have diminished the position former chairs play in board operations and eradicated 1000’s of {dollars} in annual advantages they historically obtained.

Bagneris, who served as chairman of the Jazz Fest board in 2000, is represented by his lawyer, John Pieksen, who declined to touch upon the litigation.

Attorneys representing Mercadel didn’t reply to requests for remark. Mercadel, who was elected chairman of the Jazz Fest board in 2014 and served for 2 years, declined to remark when reached by telephone.

Extra advantages

Based in 1970, the identical yr as Jazz Fest, the Jazz & Heritage Basis makes use of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in proceeds from the annual pageant to fund an array of cultural initiatives, together with free festivals, music teaching programs and a group grants. The board contracts Quint Davis’ Pageant Productions Inc.-New Orleans and AEG Presents, neither of which is called within the lawsuit in opposition to the inspiration, to provide the pageant.

Jazz Fest crowd for GAM 042021 (copy)

A big crowd on the Congo Sq. Stage of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Pageant.

The muse’s 26 board members, a mixture of New Orleans civic and enterprise leaders and representatives of the cultural group, are unpaid volunteers. Board members who’re elected chair have typically labored their means as much as different management positions on the board.

After serving two one-year phrases, essentially the most permitted by the inspiration’s bylaws, presidents have traditionally joined an advisory physique referred to as the Senate of Previous Presidents. On this position, they might proceed to take a seat on board committees and proceed to vote on the board.

And, in keeping with sources, they continued to obtain 70 free Jazz Fest tickets and the suitable to buy a further 100 tickets at half worth. In addition they obtained 4 laminate badges that granted entry to reserved viewing areas subsequent to the pageant’s three largest levels.

Primarily based on the present price of normal admission tickets, the tickets alone are value 1000’s of {dollars} a yr.

Round 2017, the board amended its bylaws in order that previous chairs may not sit on standing committees or vote. They may nonetheless sit on advert hoc committees, just like the one which governs the inspiration’s annual gala, similar to non-board members.

Additional adjustments had been made after Jazz Fest 2019. The Previous Presidents’ Senate was dissolved and Previous Presidents had been lower off from free and discounted tickets and laminates solely, sources say.

As a result of the 2020 and 2021 Jazz Festivals have been canceled by COVID, the upcoming 2022 pageant, which opens in three weeks, would be the first since former presidents’ advantages had been eradicated.

david francis

David Francis, chairman of the board of administrators of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Pageant and Basis Inc., the nonprofit proprietor of the Jazz Fest, speaks throughout a press convention on the Truthful Grounds on Tuesday, March 29 2022.

Present Jazz & Heritage Basis board chairman David Francis declined to instantly focus on the lawsuits. In a ready assertion, he mentioned the inspiration has distributed $1.6 million over the previous yr to Louisiana musicians and tradition bearers impacted by the COVID shutdown and a further $1.2 million to d different non-profit group organizations. He additionally famous that the inspiration is offering entry to Jazz Fest to eight,500 group members “who can’t afford it.”

To proceed these actions “and protect the inspiration’s 501c3 standing,” the bylaws have been amended over time to maintain the inspiration “in keeping with greatest practices for nonprofit organizations.”

In consequence, “sure previous practices associated to offering advantages to former board members have been eliminated,” he mentioned, including that advantages for present board members had additionally been eliminated. lowered.

“Whereas the inspiration appreciates the work of its former volunteer members, the inspiration has no persevering with obligation to former board members any greater than there could be with another group,” mentioned Frances.

Francis was government vp and writer of The Instances-Picayune and NOLA.com earlier than its buy by Dathel and John Georges.

Bagneris was elected a Civil District Courtroom H Division decide in 1993 and served 20 years on the bench. Throughout his unsuccessful 2017 mayoral marketing campaign, advertisements trumpeted his tenure as president of the Jazz Fest basis. Jazz Fest commemorative posters embellish the partitions of his regulation workplace.

Mercadel retired from Entergy in early 2020 after a protracted profession as a public affairs government. She is at the moment the district workplace supervisor for Carter, who was elected to america Home of Representatives final yr.

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