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Accusations fly with 13 Nights breakdown

City Council being asked to intervene to resolve concert planning problems


The organizers of a popular summer concert series who resigned in protest over how they believe the event was being managed say a St. Helens city councilor is the reason for the strife.

Now the city is being asked to judge between them.

At a City Council meeting Jan. 16, former 13 Nights on the River Director Heather Ebert accused Councilor Keith Locke — a board member of the event’s parent organization, the nonprofit St. Helens Community Foundation — of not being transparent with how money was being used, breaking liquor laws by serving someone who was visibly intoxicated and running a beer garden past the allowed time.

“These are things that are not new to the Foundation,” Ebert said, reading from a statement she had prepared. She said Locke wears too many hats, as one of the founders of 13 Nights, a board member on the Foundation and a City Council member.

Ebert and her fellow 13 Night organizers, Lyman Louis and Matt Freeman, as well as many of the event’s volunteers disbanded in December, saying they could no longer work with the Foundation. The event had previously sought to separate itself from the Foundation and become its own entity.

The Foundation board went ahead and began searching for new organizers and volunteers. By the Jan. 16 meeting, they had found a new director as well as a new treasurer.

Locke, in response to Ebert’s accusations, says the liquor laws governing nonprofits are different. He believes Ebert and Louis are trying to control the event and hold onto sound equipment 13 Nights bought through the Foundation, which provided legal oversight to the profitable and popular event.

“Maybe someday 13 Nights can go off on their own,” Locke said. “The thing is, are they really better off on their own? These people think so because they don’t like me.”

The City Council plans to discuss the matter at its afternoon work session Feb. 6.

“Everyone’s frustrated with this situation,” said Mayor Randy Peterson. “We need some time to sort things out. ... It’s a good event for the community and we want it to remain a good event for the community. So that’s our goal.”

Steve Johannsen, a local artist who has long been involved with 13 Nights and designed the posters for the annual event, said he’s trying to remain neutral. He said the issues have become personal for both sides.

“We’re supposed to look like we have our act together,” he admonished. “But it’s hard when you have to go through a monkey show to get there.”