Board Member Says Oak Street Not For Sale, Members Unconvinced


Minnesota Film Arts members and volunteers confronted the board of directors at a heated meeting Saturday night. The meeting was called by MFA’s staff, stating they wanted to know the future of the organization. MFA has been operating without an executive director since the board called for the resignation of Jamie Hook for financial mismanagement. Hook left in September.

Board members at first balked about attending the impromptu meeting.

“We were blindsided,” said board treasurer Tim Grady, referring to the staff’s call for a membership meeting.

People in the audience called out questions to the board, demanding to know if the organization’s only asset, the Oak Street Theatre, would close.

“We have no plans to sell the building,” said Grady. He also said the board was considering using the considerable amount of equity into the building to receive a loan. With the organization $130,000 in the red, according to the board, MFA is in desperate need of cash. Grady told reporters outside the theatre he has personally been floating the organization in order to make payroll.

During the meeting, one man approached the stage as Grady responded to questions about how the organization got to this point.

“This board is full of shit,” he said.

A confrontation between board, staff and members has been brewing since the former executive director left in September. The board claims Jamie Hook mismanaged the organization for a long time. He says he only missed one importantant grant deadline.

“Yes, I’m culpable,” Hook said in a phone interview from New York. “But why wouldn’t the board entertain any of my other ideas about bringing in money or new board members with accounting experience to help the staff?”

Dissatisfied with the answers, members, staff and volunteers moved to a bar to discuss their plans of action. The founder of Oak Street Cinema, Robert Cowgill, told them, “This is a board-directed organization, not member-directed.”

Legally, members have no power determining the future of the organization. According to the by-laws of MFA, they are even prevented from attending board meetings. Some people suggested working with the board to erase the debt. Another plan was to create another organization with a new set of by-laws and assume the debt themselves.

Board memberswouldn’t commit to another meeting to hash out the future of MFA, but said they would let members know when such a date was set. Tim Grady confirmed that the board personally will fund the International Film Festival in April.