Group urges Minneapolis to take over Orchestra Hall

UPDATED at 5.30 with full management statement

Save Our Symphony Minnesota, a group working to end the 15-month contract dispute that has brought the Minnesota Orchestra to a halt, is calling on the City of Minneapolis to assume control of the Orchestra Hall — and the Orchestra’s multi-million dollar endowment.

In a letter to the city the group argues that the Orchestra management broke its lease with the city by knowingly misstating its financial situation. Michael McNabb, one of Save Our Symphony Minnesota’s directors, said under Minnesota law donations made to the Orchestra and Orchestra Hall make it a charitable trust.

“Orchestra Hall is an asset of that charitable trust, as is the endowment, ” he said. “With the termination of the lease, the City will become the successor trustee.”

McNabb said the city would be obliged under the law to use the hall and the money as specified by donors for classical music performances.  He also noted that while some city officials have wondered whether the Minnesota Orchestral Association would have to be compensated for funds it has spent,  SOSMN believes that money is also a donation and becomes the property of the trust which does not have to be repaid.

In late afternoon the orchestra management issued a formal statement: “The SOS letter fails to consider additional information and financial detail that was shared with the City and State by the Orchestra during the grant and lease process between 2010 and 2012, when the lease was ultimately signed.   The Orchestra fully disclosed the financial position of the organization for the City and State, including the need to reduce endowment draws and restructure salary and benefits expense.”

“Our attorneys advise that the charitable trust cases cited in the letter don’t affect the terms of the MOA lease.  The lease expressly provides for reimbursement of a portion of the building costs paid for by MOA if the lease terminates under certain circumstances.  MOA would comply with all donor restrictions  applicable to any reimbursed funds.”