Charity Navigator Says Independent Consultant Got Young At Art Review Wrong

Fourth In A Multi-Part Investigation

After enduring months of intimidation from Broward County officials, it’s no surprise Louise Stevens’ “independent review” of the Young At Art (YAA) children’s museum ended with a mistake-filled performance at a County Commission workshop. On May 5, 2015, Stevens reported her findings to Broward County Commissioners.  As REDBROWARD previously reported, Stevens disregarded her tried and true methods of independent review after a Broward County Libraries business administrator threatened her reputation.

Multiple sources confirm that Jeff Tottenhoff, a Broward Libraries business administrator, delivered a threat to Louise Stevens: issue a negative report about Young At Art or your reputation would be ruined.

Sources confirm Stevens told the YAA board about the threat. When reached by REDBROWARD, Stevens had no comment.

However another source confirmed the early morning meeting took place at the Salad Bowl, an eatery located near the main library in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

When contacted by REDBROWARD, Tottenhoff admitted he met Stevens at the Salad Bowl for breakfast. He said he “just wanted to meet” Stevens. Tottenhoff said any claims that he threatened Stevens’ career and reputation were “patently false.”

Despite the denials, Stevens short-circuited her investigative process. On May 5, Stevens appeared before the County Commission to discuss her final report. In a total deviation from Stevens’ normal operating procedures, the 104 page report was completed without input from YAA.

CHARITY NAVIGATOR MESS

At the May 5th workshop, County Commissioner Mark Bogen asked Stevens about YAA’s fundraising capabilities. Commissioners were concerned about the museum’s ability to repay County loans. Bogen asked, “Louise, it says here, it says efficiency at raising funds is one of the worst–who says that?” Stevens stated she used the tools from the highly-respected Charity Navigator website.

According to its website, the non-profit Charity Navigator, “works to guide intelligent giving. [W]e aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation’s and the world’s most persistent challenges.” Charity Navigator has been endorsed by numerous non-profits and news organizations like TIME, Forbes and Bill O’Reilly of FOX News.

In response to Commissioner Bogen, Stevens stated:

When you apply the measurement tools, the rubric, if you will, that Charity Navigator puts out–[YAA] come in at zero. And it’s a-it’s a–it’s a straightforward statistical evaluation that anyone can do. And it is literally the cost that they show on their Form 990 to the amount of funds raised. And it comes–straight off of the Form 990.

Bogen asked, “Okay. So it’s correct?”

“Yes.” said Louise Stevens.

CHARITY NAVIGATOR SAYS CONSULTANT DEAD WRONG

YAA officials were shocked when Stevens claimed their Charity Navigator score was zero stars. YAA supporters were shocked when they applied the YAA numbers to the Charity Navigator formula; So shocked, they contacted officials at Charity Navigator.

REDBROWARD obtained emails from Tim Gamory, the acting Chief Operating Officer of Charity Navigator. Gamory wrote, “”Based on our current methodology, Young At Art would have a 4 star rating overall. Perfect Accountability and Transparency Score.”

In a response to Stevens’ final report, Young At Art claimed to find more errors.

So how did Louise Stevens get her facts so wrong?

According to Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, Louise Stevens had been creating a “fictionalized” report all along.

NEXT: BERTHA HENRY IN CYA MODE OVER YAA REVIEW

Broward Official Threatens Consultant Over Childrens Museum Report

Louise Stevens of ArtsMarket, Inc.
Louise Stevens of ArtsMarket, Inc.

Third in a multi-part investigation

Louise Stevens had made the 2,000 trek from Montana to Fort Lauderdale. Broward County hired the nationally-known arts consultant from ArtsMarket, Inc. to conduct an independent review of the Young At Art (YAA) children’s museum. Stevens came to South Florida to hold a retreat with YAA officials, board members and staff.  After many museums took a financial hit during the 2008 recession, the County wanted to bolster YAA’s business model and fundraising.

As REDBROWARD reported, part of Louise Stevens’ tried and true independent review process included “retreats” with officials and staff of the facility under review.

REDBROWARD obtained a February 18, 2015 email from Louise Stevens to YAA officials outlining her process. She promised to draft at least five versions of her report and hold “retreats” with the YAA board to get their thoughts on the various drafts before a final version is submitted to the County. This email contained Stevens’ first draft. “Here TaDa! is draft 1. As it explains on the cover page, I envision that after I get your immediate/top of mind thoughts I will revise it to be draft 2.” Stevens wrote. “Draft 2 is what I hope we will share with your board early next week so they have plenty of time to read, react, and think it through before the retreat. It is what we will work with at the retreat.” Stevens said draft 3 will be the product of their work at the retreat.

Groups previously reviewed by ArtsMarket, Inc. confirmed retreats were part of Stevens’ process. In paperwork collected by Broward County employees,the Hockaday Museum of Art gave rave reviews of Stevens’ performance. The performance verification form states, “Louise…was a 99.9 on a scale of 1-100. ‘The company went above and beyond; having a retreat to ensure all staff was knowledgeable about the marketing plan.’ ArtsMarket, Inc. was very professional and has many National contacts.

However, Stevens would never go “above and beyond” with Young At Art.

EARLY MORNING MEETING DERAILS INDEPENDENT PROCESS

The retreat for Louise Stevens and Young At Art board members was scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, 2015. In a February 2, 2015 email, Stevens said, “This is terrific. I will fly in on Monday, so Monday, Tues, Wed night at hotel.” On Sunday March 1, Stevens emailed detailed plans to YAA staff. She promised to send a “long” executive summary to YAA on Monday March 2 so the YAA board can review before the retreat.

Stevens wrote she “will finish draft 2 of the plan tomorrow–luckily I have long flights!” Stevens would be coming to Fort Lauderdale from her home in Bozeman, Montana.

On Tuesday March 3, a noon time email informed YAA board members and staff that the planned retreat was cancelled.

YAA officials were still set to meet with Stevens on Wednesday March 4.

At 7:05 am Wednesday morning, Stevens emails YAA asking to delay the start of their 8am meeting. She wrote, “Jeff [Tottenhoff] called me last night and I have to meet him at 8 at the library. Pls. let the team know…just the usual county nervousness there. Can we start at 10:30?”

Stevens faced with more than “nervousness” that morning.

Multiple sources confirm that Jeff Tottenhoff, a Broward Libraries business administrator, delivered a threat to Louise Stevens: issue a negative report about Young At Art or your reputation would be ruined.

Sources confirm Stevens told the YAA board about the threat. When reached by REDBROWARD, Stevens had no comment.

However another source confirmed the early morning meeting took place at the Salad Bowl, an eatery located near the main library in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

When contacted by REDBROWARD, Tottenhoff admitted he met Stevens at the Salad Bowl for breakfast. He said he “just wanted to meet” Stevens. Tottenhoff said any claims that he threatened Stevens’ career and reputation were “patently false.”

As REDBROWARD previously reported, this was not the first time Stevens felt pressure from Broward County.

Stevens told YAA about the pressure before she had even signed a contract with Broward County. Stevens called her experience with Broward County unlike anything in many years dealing with local governments. “Heaven knows in our 32 years we have NEVER been put through a legal examination wringer like this,” she wrote. “Including having to purchase so much extra insurance for the law suits the county expects will be filed against us for our work on this project. (That’s what they told us!)”

She wrote, “Our only take away after negotiating (and losing) re the ridiculous insurance levels is that the County plans to sue us if the museum doesn’t turn around the way we say it should in the plan.” Stevens said she will “error on the side of conservative projections with them at all times so that YAA will exceed my projections.”

COUNTY PLAYS DAMAGE CONTROL

While Tottenhoff denies making any threats, the evidence clearly shows Stevens changed her review process after meeting with him. Even more telling, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry would issue a memo blaming Stevens for the entire mess.

NEXT: BERTHA HENRY IN CYA MODE OVER YAA REVIEW

Will Taxpayers Foot The Bill For Another Holness Pet Project?

Dale Holness & Speakers at the 2014 Orange Economy Symposium
Dale Holness & Speakers at the 2014 Orange Economy Symposium

Broward taxpayers may be on the hook for another expensive pet project promoting controversial Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. At Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioners will be asked to approve agenda item 20 regarding a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Broward County Cultural Division claims $30,000 in public funds will be spent “to support a symposium exploring Latin America and Caribbean’s impact on the arts economy of South Florida.”

The NEA will award $15,000 with the County promising to match that amount. The Cultural Division states it applied for the grant to “support a symposium in the Spring of 2016, entitled ‘A Creative and Cultural Industries Symposium-The Future of the Latin American, Caribbean & South Florida Economies-The Orange Economy: An Infinite Opportunity.'” While it’s doubtful many South Floridians will attend this symposium, it appears County bureaucrats see this an an “infinite opportunity” to spend taxpayer dollars.

This exact same symposium was held in 2014. In an August 2014 blog post, Earl Bosworth, Director of the Broward County Cultural Division, admitted the symposium was poorly attended. Entitled “The Proof Is In The Pudding,” Bosworth crowed, “Panels and symposiums don’t normally draw large crowds, at least not like live music and marching bands do.”

“So, when members of a select panel spoke recently at the NSU’s Museum of Art │Fort Lauderdale during a very unique symposium hosted by Broward Cultural Division,” Bosworth said. “It was successful within itself that a crowd of more than 100 attendees arrived, including many from Broward’s Latin American and Caribbean communities.” Let that sink in.

One hundred people showed up. 100.

Bosworth wrote attendees included diplomatic personnel from St Lucia, Jamaica, Peru, and even one of Broward’s own: County Commissioner Dale Holness. He wrote Holness is a, “huge proponent for diversity and supporting the minority Latin American and Caribbean demographic in Broward County.

According to Bosworth’s post, Holness opened the symposium with “remarks that cited Broward County’s creative sector’s growth in the last six years at 57 percent, during a period of national depression. He also brought to light the demographics of Broward County which show a Hispanic population of 26.5 percent, Black and African-American population of 27.9 percent, and a white population of 41.9 percent – making it a Minority-Majority County. These demographics signify the importance of recognizing, measuring, and supporting the arts and cultural wealth that lies here.”

Bosworth sounds more like Holness PR guy than an employee of Broward County.

Not surprisingly, the 2016 symposium will take place just as Holness is running for re-election to the County Commission.

As REDBROWARD has reported, Holness is skilled at acquiring funding for his pet projects. In April 2013, Holness convinced his fellow Commissioners to give $15,000 in taxpayer dollars to the Community Access Center, Inc (CAC) “in support of Haitian Cultural Heritage Month, May 2013″. The taxpayers provided $1,700 worth of mailing and web site design services. REDBROWARD revealed Holness and his supporters sat on the board for the CAC. Commissioner Stacy Ritter even called this request “pork.”

Last September, the Children’s Services Council (CSC) gave $40,000 to CAC claiming the Holness group was a “television station.” REDBROWARD exposed the CSC Board minutes:

HUF is recommended for funding under this procurement based on their strong proposal and their
extensive experience with the Council’s EITC and VITA initiatives. However, the Committee expressed
concerns about the need for targeted outreach efforts to reach the Creole speaking population, which is
the focus of the work of CAC. While HUF included funding for a subcontract with HandsOn Broward
within their proposal, a similar subcontract with CAC would strengthen the overall proposal and ensure a
culturally diverse outreach and service continuum. Therefore, subject to contract and subcontract
negotiations, it is recommended that HUF include both HandsOnBroward and CAC as subcontracted
partners at an amount not to exceed $40,000 within the total award of $295,000.

Broward taxpayers keep paying for Holness projects. When will our elected leaders demand to see results from these events?