Art league president defends league, financials

“They left. They chose to leave,” said Anna Maria Island Art League president Laura McGeary last week of former league board members.

    “They all knew I was doing everything. The financials were seen every month,” McGeary said, defending herself against published reports by former board members attacking her administration of the league.

    League board meetings included a certified public accountant, she said, who went over how to read financials and an update on the league’s Internal Revenue Service charitable reinstatement, as well as a bookkeeper who talked about the league’s expenses.

    “They were getting all the reports. They got monthly, quarterly, six-month and annual reports. They had all these financials put in front of them,” she said.

    McGeary took over as acting treasurer about a year ago when no other board member stepped up. She also points out, a second board member signed all checks.

    The league’s former executive director, Christina Reginelli, resigned May 11, and closed the gallery and art facility, 5312 Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach. Seven members of the board submitted their resignations shortly thereafter, leaving three members, including McGeary, serving the league.

    Reginelli told The Islander she canceled summer camp, classes and workshops and put a notice on the door stating “closed until further notice,” saying the league could no longer meet its expenses.

    “I really didn’t expect it,” McGeary said about the shortfall. “I thought we’d squeak by.”

    In retrospect, McGeary blames the league’s problems on declining income due to the general downturn in the economy, rising costs, too few volunteers to staff the league’s Winterfest and Springfest festivals — which contributed to problems in marketing, sales and the bottom line — and the loss of the charitable status.

    McGeary said the loss of the IRS charitable designation was an “inherited” problem due to the league’s failure to file three years of returns before her term as president.

    Last week, McGeary released financial statements prepared for the league by certified public accountants, Rehfeldt Group P.A. of Bradenton.

    Statements for 2010-11 show the league began the fiscal year with net assets of $21,799, and ended in September 2011 with $17,985. Rehfeldt financial statements for six months ending March 31, 2012 showed the league’s net assets had dropped to $9,691.

    McGeary said income in April “dropped significantly,” and expenses were still coming in from Winterfest.

    Since April 1, McGeary said league coffers were depleted by “big bills,” including rent, utilities, newspaper and magazine advertising, and payments to art instructors, the accountant, executive director and festival director.

    The league has a 22-year history on Anna Maria Island, showcasing local talent, providing art classes, camps and workshops and two art and craft shows. The festivals were the league’s major income generator to fund the art center and a scholarship program that provided deserving students with art classes.

    McGeary is currently planning for Winterfest.

    Former board members, Leslie Robbins, Karen Hasler, Alexis Lillis, Cheryl Jorgenson, Gillian Holt, and Ellen Aquilina, as well as Reginelli, issued a statement May 30, seeking accountability about the finances.

    Remaining on the board, in addition to McGeary, are members, Deeana Atkinson and Christine Galanopoulos. McGeary said she is looking for others interested in serving the league.

     The art league needs approximately $5,000 to meet its current expenses and liabilities, according to McGeary. In the past two weeks, in addition to several nice calls, McGeary has received approximately $1,000.

        McGeary is seeking contributions or pledges in support of the league “that has meant so much for art education in the community and for the children — that is what the art league is really about,” she said.

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