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13 Nights back on track, new board says

After meeting with St. Helens city officials and former board members, the new board of the popular concert series, 13 Nights, is moving forward, booking bands and planning for the summer.

Jan. 30 was former board member Lyman Louis' last day with the 13 Nights group. He and former director Heather Ebert, as well as other volunteers, resigned in December, citing concerns about how the event's parent organization, the St. Helens Community Foundation, was attempting to manage 13 Nights.

Specifically, Louis and Ebert said the problems rested with Foundation board member and city councilor Keith Locke. They accused Locke of mismanaging funds, breaking alcohol serving laws and being uncommunicative and hard to work with. They asked that he be removed from the Foundation board.

The Foundation has since recruited a new board to take over the event.

Following a City Council meeting in mid-January, Mayor Randy Peterson met with both the Foundation and the former 13 Night organizers as a mediator.

"Nothing came out of all the meetings,” Peterson said. Ebert and Louis were not interested in coming back to work with the new 13 Nights board. However, Louis said everything, including disputed sound equipment, has been turned over to Peterson and the new 13 Nights group as of Jan. 30.

Peterson said there was no agreement made that Locke would resign, but Locke offered his resignation at a recent Foundation board meeting. The Foundation board, however, would not accept it.

“We felt he was a valuable asset to the Foundation and the community and we needed him,” said Bob Salisbury, a local attorney who is also the Foundation's president.

But Ebert and Louis do not share this opinion.

“Nothing has changed,” wrote Louis in an e-mail. “The drama that engulfed this great event has been tamped down for now, but the problems that created the drama are still firmly entrenched at the foundation.”

Salisbury said requests for sponsorship have not seemed to suffer from the controversy and both sponsors and bands are lining up.

In the past, the city paid the insurance for the Foundation's various events — not an unusual step for the city which also has given money to the St. Helens Senior Center and the local food bank, Peterson said. The Council plans to discuss 13 Nights and the Foundation at its 1 p.m. work session today.

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