The family operating the troubled Young At Art (YAA) Children’s Museum has filed another lawsuit against Broward County and an independent museum consultant. Last Thursday, former Judge Jay Spechler filed a libel and slander lawsuit on behalf of his wife, Mindy Shrago and his son Zack Spechler. The lawsuit alleges eight counts of libel and slander against Broward County, ArtsMarket, Inc and its owner Louise Stevens.
Lawsuit claims Broward County Commissioners and the independent consultant made numerous false statements about Shrago, Spechler and YAA. The Spechler family claims former County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger made inaccurate and false statements regarding the amount of money spent on YAA exhibits. The Spechlers claim County Commissioner Tim Ryan made inaccurate statements about YAA not paying its debt to Broward taxpayers. The Spechlers claim County Commissioner Dale Holness made similar inaccurate statements about the museum spending $20 million dollars on exhibits.
The Spechlers claim Broward County knew Gunzburger’s comments were, “[F]alse and never took affirmative actions to mitigate the damage that was done to Shrago’s reputation as reported by the Sun Sentinel.”
The new lawsuit takes issue with Louise Steven’s report to the County Commission which alleged issues with payments made to Zack Spechler and his sister Ali Spechler.
The 139 complaint filed in Broward County Circuit Court appears to rehash the same facts contained in the lawsuit filed against Broward County and Artsmarket late last year.
YAA LAWSUIT VOL. 1
Last October, Young At Art claimed it filed the lawsuit fearing an imminent takeover by Broward County government. YAA was trying to negotiate another new payment deal with County officials. Numerous documents obtained by REDBROWARD showed Young At Art officials and Broward County leaders were aware of problems with controversial exhibits two years ago.
Last November, REDBROWARD detailed issues surrounding a report from Louise Stevens, an independent consultant hired by the County to examine the financial situation at YAA. One of the main issues uncovered by the consultant was the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly (BLA) program operated under the guidance of Zack Spechler, the son of of YAA executive director Mindy Shrago.
IRS forms showed YAA paid Zack Spechler more than $40,000 over two years. The 2013 Form 990 shows Spechler was paid $17,636 for “services as an artistic/exhibit consultant.” The 2014 form shows Spechler received $24,000 for services as an artistic consultant.
In October, County Commissioners blasted YAA Chairman David Di Pietro for filing the lawsuit against the County while trying to negotiate another deal for the troubled taxpayer-funded museum. County Attorney Joni Coffey called it “ridiculous” while Commissioner Mark Bogen signaled the County was ready to “go to war” if YAA did not come back to the table in good faith.
Di Pietro attempted to blame the County for the hastily filed lawsuit. He claimed the museum had no choice because the County was ready to take control of Young At Art.
However, REDBROWARD showed YAA insiders laid the groundwork for the lawsuit back in 2015.
THEORY OF THE CASE AGAINST BROWARD COUNTY?
Despite David Di Pietro’s claims the lawsuit was an emergency maneuver to block a hostile takeover by the County, documents showed Young At Art planned legal action against Broward County for more than a year. In 2015, 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.
(Many of these same allegations are made in the latest lawsuit by YAA.)
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.”
In August 2016, REDBROWARD reported former 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 the County Commission agenda.
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.”
However, much of information REDBROWARD received back in September 2015 is included in both YAA lawsuits.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Last week, REDBROWARD reported Broward County lawyers filed a motion to dismiss YAA’s first lawsuit against the County.
In February, YAA asked a Broward County Judge to stay the proceedings for another ninety days. Judge William Haury gave them just forty-five days to finalize a deal. The stay was set to expire on March 23rd.
On that very day, Broward County lawyers filed a motion to dimiss three key counts of the YAA complaint. As of Friday, YAA has no responded to the motion.
Earlier this month, key representatives from Young At Art visited Broward County Commissioners to discuss the matter. Representatives included Mindy Shrago, David Di Pietro, Dana McLean and attorney Bruce Green.
MORE CONTROVERSIAL ART AT YAA?
Last week, REDBROWARD reported Zack Spechler continues to promote highly inappropriate artists appearing in exhibits tied to the taxpayer-supported children’s museum. According to Spechler’s social media posts, things may get really wild at the already controversial Davie museum later this month. Even though Young At Art is seeking to make a new financial deal with Broward County, it appears Zack Spechler is not shying away from controversial exhibits.
In April, Spechler mentioned an upcoming YAA show on Instagram. He wrote, “In Boston, but can’t get @sleeperspeaks off my mind! May 20th performance at @youngatartmuseum is coming soon!” Mindy Shrago was one of the fifteen people who “liked” Spechler’s post.
According to the museum’s website, YAA will be closed on that Saturday to accomodate two events. One is party celebrating Gerry Greenspoon, a local attorney. The other event is a Hi-Tech/Lo-Tech exhibit, “Created by Young At Art Museum, this exhibition explores how technology and art intertwine and will feature an array of technological artwork produced by contemporary South Florida artists.”
A review of “@sleeperspeaks” social media accounts shows the use of LED lighting in avant garde costumes, but it appears most of the costumes are featured in highly adult performances. @Sleeperspeaks hosts regular “gender bending” fetish shows at Miami nighclubs. Videos posted by @sleeperspeaks show acts not usually featured at children’s art museums. Videos included a woman dragging a masked man around the stage with a rope attached to his penis. Another posted video shows a woman preparing peanut butter sandwiches on her gentials.
Last year, REDBROWARD revealed hyper-sexualized exhibits under the direction of Spechler included a PEN15 (penis) Club, erotic peep shows and vagina-shaped sculptures. Video and photographs of the events show children attended some of these shows. These same videos showed Spechler’s father, former Judge Jay Spechler, helping to hang these sculptures.
Also, REDBROWARD obtained artwork showing a topless woman laying across Jay Spechler’s lap. The woman in the painting appears to be the artist herself, his daughter Ali Spechler.
TAXPAYERS LOSING MONEY FAST
Now, in addition to the money spent on the museum, Broward taxpayers are footing the bill for two lawsuits. Last week, REDBROWARD asked who was paying for Young At Art’s legal fees. Shouldn’t Broward County Commissioners ask these same questions?
Broward residents deserve answers.