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13 Nights board, volunteers resign

St. Helens Community Foundation president calls for volunteers, says event will continue


The managers behind the popular 13 Nights summer concert series in St. Helens as well as many of the event volunteers have resigned, saying it was impossible to continue to work with the event’s parent organization, the nonprofit St. Helens Community Foundation.

The Foundation has since put out a call for volunteers, trying to build the concert group up again from scratch.

They have already found a new manager in St. Helens resident Christina Sullivan as of Jan. 8 and other people have called, interested in volunteering, said Bob Salisbury, a local attorney and current president of the Foundation.

The former 13 Nights organizers, including local musician and guitar teacher Lyman Louis and former Managing Director Heather Ebert, had sought to separate from the Foundation in 2012 and, following a meeting with Foundation board members, announced their intention to do so at a St. Helens City Council meeting in October, said Louis.

At the time, Louis told the councilors he believed this separation could be accomplished peacefully despite a debate over which group should retain ownership of sound equipment purchased through the Foundation with funds raised by 13 Nights. But, by December, this had changed.

The Foundation had sent out partner agreements to groups and events under its oversight. After reviewing the document, Louis and Ebert said they could have signed if the Foundation had amended certain items, such as a clause that would have made the Foundation in charge of all fundraising. Louis said when 13 Nights asked the Foundation to modify the agreement, the Foundation emptied the group’s bank account on Nov. 8, an amount totaling approximately $6,500.

St. Helens City Councilor Keith Locke said the Foundation transferred the money to ensure the 13 Nights events could continue into the future and as a safeguard in case the Foundation was unable to recover the contested sound equipment from the original 13 Nights group.

“We didn’t touch the funds. We just moved it,” Salisbury said, adding that the money will still be used for the concert series.

He said the Foundation sent out the partner agreement to 13 Nights on Nov. 1 and didn’t hear back from the group until Dec. 3. The Foundation board met on Dec. 14 to discuss the proposed amendments and had planned to schedule a meeting with 13 Nights when the organizers announced their resignation, Salisbury said.

“Most of what they suggested, we were going to approve,” he said. But, he added, these requests were overshadowed by the group’s stated desire to part ways with the Foundation. Salisbury said he didn’t understand how 13 Nights planned to operate apart from the Foundation which, with its nonprofit status, provides insurance protection, financial services and other legal protections to 13 Nights.

“We really want to have a board that is over us, that can give us direction and growth,” Ebert said. “[13 Nights] is really at a point where we need a group over us that can support us.” She said that only recently, under Salisbury’s direction, has the Foundation begun to meet somewhat regularly and standardize its accounting and other financial and legal practices.

Both Ebert and Louis also referenced difficulties in communicating and working with Locke, but said overall frustration with the Foundation is the reason for their resignation.

“In reality, our experience has been that the involvement of the Foundation has been far more trouble than it is worth and we have worked to build our organization to the point where we could flourish and succeed without them,” Louis wrote in a Dec. 29 letter to St. Helens Mayor Randy Peterson announcing the resignation.

Meanwhile, Salisbury is confident 13 Nights will continue. It has been the Foundation’s most successful event, he said.