Despite claims its lawsuit was an emergency maneuver to block a hostile takeover by the County, documents show Young At Art (YAA) children’s museum had planned legal action against Broward County for more than a year. Last fall, REDBROWARD received a briefing book detailing alleged missteps committed by Broward County officials and others including Gretchen Cassini (Assistant To The Broward County Administrator), independent consultant Louise Stevens, and former YAA chairman Jose Pagan. Compiled by a museum insider, the book focused upon a “scathing report” by the independent consultant which exposed serious financial issues at the museum as well as the problematic payments to curator Zack Spechler, son of YAA CEO Mindy Shrago.
During Tuesday’s Broward County Commission meeting, current Young At Art chairman David Di Pietro tried to portray the museum as victims of an attempted government takeover led by Commissioner Lois Wexler. Di Pietro claimed to be “shocked” that the County Commission wanted to discuss the ongoing scandals at the taxpayer-funded museum in Davie. “I don’t know why we’re here,” Di Pietro said. “I cancelled my whole day to be here.”
As REDBROWARD reported, in August, Commissioner Wexler asked for an update on the third round of renegotiations with YAA. According to County Administrator Bertha Henry, a framework for a new deal was submitted to Young At Art management in July. The museum had not responded to the proposal.
Di Pietro claimed no YAA board meeting had been planned over the summer. Believing the inaction on the part of YAA as a sign of “bad faith,” Wexler placed the issue on Tuesday’s agenda. Late Monday evening, Young At Art filed a lawsuit against Broward County, Artsmarket, Inc., and its owners Louise and John Stevens.
David Di Pietro claimed the Young At Art board voted to file the lawsuit because the County planned a hostile takeover of the museum with just four days notice. He claimed the County proposal was full of “non-starters.” He said the museum never received a written appraisal for price of the museum building and property. Di Pietro even made the attempt to claim the County owed the museum money.
“We don’t want to be in an adversarial position with the County,” Di Pietro said. “You left us with no other choice.”
SEEDS OF LAWSUIT PLANTED IN 2015
While Di Pietro claimed the lawsuit was a hasty decision to stop the County, seeds for the YAA lawsuit were planted months before Broward started negotiations with the museum.
Much of information REDBROWARD received last September is included in the YAA lawsuit filed Monday evening.
County Commissioners gave Di Pietro and YAA one week to decide whether to shelve their lawsuit and come back to the table in good faith to work out a deal, if not, Commissioner Mark Bogen said they would “go to war.” Examine these screenshots of the 2015 briefing book and compare with the lawsuit filed on Monday.
While Di Pietro may talk of “good faith,” it seems someone at Young At Art has been dead set on a war for more than a year.