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Theater Panel to Include Donors : Thousand Oaks: The commission responsible for scheduling Civic Arts Plaza events will be expanded.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The panel responsible for scheduling shows at Thousand Oaks’ Civic Arts Plaza will soon expand to include private donors as well as political appointees, but the City Council will retain ultimate control over the theater complex.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes debate, key fund raisers and arts patrons on Tuesday persuaded the council to adopt a compromise plan for restructuring the existing theater commission into a nonprofit Board of Governors. They argued that donors--who have already pledged $5 million toward a Civic Arts Plaza endowment fund--should be able to vote on programming and scheduling issues.

But they agreed that the council should retain control over the complex’s budget, personnel and physical plant.

“There were concerns about elitism, concerns that we had a bunch of rich people running the show,” former mayor Bob Lewis told the council. “That is absolutely not true.”

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Putting it even more bluntly, theater commissioner Larry Janss said: “The donors are not out for a power grab.”

As a public-private coalition, with a majority of city appointees, the Board of Governors will be required to post agendas, hold open meetings and invite citizen comment, City Atty. Mark Sellers said. Each member, including donors, will be required to file financial-disclosure forms listing potential conflicts of interest.

Reassured that the new Board of Governors would remain open to public scrutiny, several council members who initially expressed skepticism decided to back the restructuring proposal.

“We’re about to experience a new era in this city,” Mayor Alex Fiore said after a 45-minute debate among the often-divided council members. “It’s a probable 5-0 vote on a controversial matter.”

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After the unanimous vote, Councilwoman Elois Zeanah urged Alliance for the Arts fund raisers to make the most of their victory by dangling Board of Governors seats before potential donors to reel in more contributions.

“I hope we will hear that the endowment grows, in substantial leaps, by tomorrow morning,” Zeanah said to a few groans from weary fund raisers.

The Board of Governors will assemble this fall with the following membership categories filling staggered four-year terms:

Seven members appointed by the City Council, including one representative from the educational community and one young adult between the ages of 16 and 30.

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* One representative from the council-appointed Arts Commission.

* Five donors who have pledged at least $5,000 apiece to the endowment fund. The Alliance for the Arts fund-raising board will nominate the five donors, and the council will confirm the appointments.

* One representative from the Alliance for the Arts.

* One member of the independent Arts Council of the Conejo Valley.

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Once installed, the governors will raise money to help meet ongoing operational costs--the day-to-day expenses of running a theater. The group will also secure funds to support programming, especially to subsidize nonprofit groups.

Along with fund raising, the governors will advise the theater’s executive director on programming priorities and dream up special projects such as children’s festivals. And they may come up with new schemes for financing shows instead of running the 1,800-seat auditorium strictly as a rental facility.

“We want to make sure we will not put the city at risk financially,” Alliance fund-raiser Stephen Woodworth said, adding that an expanded Board of Governors might have more time or inclination to explore alternative financing plans than a group narrowly tied to the City Council.


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