This Thursday, Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that he filed a lawsuit against the non-profit Howard Theatre Restoration, Inc. (HTR) that is overseeing the renovation and reopening of the Howard Theatre, alleging that the organization has failed to properly obtain audits or maintain a functioning board.
With this lawsuit, violations that are being charged against HTR include it failing to maintain a minimum of three people on its board of directors and failing to obtain independent audits in the past seven years. Furthermore, Racine alleges that the non-profit did not file any tax forms for fiscal years 2013 or 2014. According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit asks the organization to appoint an independent auditor to review the organization’s financial records.
In a statement, Racine said, “The Howard Theatre is a vital piece of the District’s cultural heritage. We are bringing this suit to ensure that HTR meets its legal obligation to preform [sic] regular financial audits in a complete, accurate, and transparent manner. This is especially important given District taxpayers’ $12 million investment in the theater’s restoration. Our suit alleges that HTR’s failure to follow the Nonprofit Corporations Act is undermining the Howard’s ability to succeed.”
Located at 620 T Street NW, the Howard Theatre is a historic property, dating back to 1910 when it first opened as one of the first African-American jazz entertainment theaters in the country. Over the years, the venue has hosted musicians like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, and Louis Armstrong. In 1975, the theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After falling into disrepair following the city’s 1968 riots, the District purchased the property in 1986. It wasn’t until 2007 when a $29 million restoration project began on the Howard Theatre before it reopened in 2012. At the time, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “D.C. is back because the Howard is back.”
Four years later, the Washington Post reported that the theatre was struggling once again with charges of mismanagement and mounting financial problems.
• Lawsuit [Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia]
• Attorney General Racine Sues Nonprofit at Center of Howard Theatre Revitalization for Violating Nonprofit Corporations Act [Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia]
• District suit alleges mismanagement at Howard Theatre [The Washington Post]
• Howard Theatre reopening reveals modern design inside with a classic exterior [The Washington Post]
• Money problems and no-name acts: The Howard Theatre is struggling. Again. [The Washington Post]