The citizen directors of Toronto’s Sony Centre are speaking out against a move to disband the board of the city-owned theatre, saying councillors who want them turfed have “misrepresented” the role current directors played in a spending scandal.
Members of the city’s audit committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend city council dismantle the theatre’s board after an audit uncovered multiple sole-source deals and missing documents in connection with a multimillion-dollar renovation. In its place, the committee asked council at its June meeting to install an interim board comprised of three of the city’s most senior managers, and three councillors. The current board consists of eight citizen directors and four councillors.
The volunteer members expressed their objections to the move in a statement issued Thursday evening, saying they “believe that they have been misrepresented,” and noting they were not on the board during the period covered by the auditor’s report.
“The issues raised in the Auditor General’s report, which formed the basis of the Audit Committee’s motion, pertain to decisions that were made by the previous board,” it reads.
“This board has taken the Auditor General’s report seriously, and has expressed its support of and endorsed all the recommendations included within,” the statement concludes.
Several councillors who support putting the theatre under tighter city control until after the next election while a new CEO is selected stress they are not finding fault with existing directors. “We need to protect this asset,” said Councillor Gary Crawford Thursday. “This has nothing to do with the board. They are volunteers trying to do a good job.”
Mr. Crawford, one of four councillors on the Sony board, would become chair of the interim board under the committee’s recommendation.
Toronto’s Auditor-General found several instances where the theatre’s management did not follow city rules – including incomplete records, failing to tender major contracts and accepting donations from a developer during the negotiations on a deal.
The cost of the theatre’s makeover, which ballooned from $28.5-million to more than $40-million, was to be financed by the sale of development rights for a 57-storey condo tower. About $4-million in work still needs to be done, but the money from the condo deal has been spent and the city is on the hook for as much as $10-million, the audit found.
The Sony Centre’s CEO, Dan Brambilla, who will leave his post at the end of June, disputes those findings.