MOUNT VERNON – When Pat Crow, longtime director of the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival, announced his resignation from the festival in a private letter on April 26, he alleged that a “hostile work environment” at the Convention and Visitors Bureau had led him to step down.
He cited a note he received two days prior from an unnamed “CVB Board member/county official” who told Crow the CVB “should not be supplying anything to festivals – Dan Emmett, Tomato, or similar venues that is not for our (CVB) exclusive use.”
County commissioner and CVB board member Bill Pursel told Knox Pages Monday that this statement pertained to the CVB’s past use of taxpayer money to supply tables, tents and chairs for the festival, which the board recently questioned.
On Tuesday, CVB Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Kakiris issued a statement in response to Crow’s letter. In the statement, Kakiris addresses Crow’s claims and offers insight as to where the complaints may have originated. She also explains the relationship between the CVB and Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival, Inc., which are independent entities.
Kakiris told Knox Pages in an email that, “as far as the CVB is concerned, nothing has changed in relationship to the festival. Our executive director has left his volunteer position with the festival but that doesn't change our continued support of the festival as a tourism opportunity.”
Kakiris, who has served as board chair since January, issued this statement Tuesday on behalf of the CVB Board of Trustees:
“The article published in Saturday’s Mount Vernon News is the first the Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Board has heard of any contention regarding the CVB’s support of the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival and we are distressed that we were not contacted by Mr. Crow directly for further discussion.
“Regarding the allegations of a hostile work environment, since January 2019, the CVB Board has sought a more detailed understanding of the finances and operations of the CVB, especially regarding agreements between the CVB and the Woodward Development Corp., as there are no written contracts regarding the assignment of CVB resources in support of both organizations.
“The CVB board feels this due diligence is primary to its fiduciary responsibility to oversee the expenditures utilizing bed tax funding provided to us through the Knox County Commissioners and the City of Mount Vernon for “the promotion and publicizing of the County in order to bring the patronage and business of tourists, and cultural, educational, religious, professional, and sports organizations into the County, for the benefit of the citizens of the County and of the business community...” (Contract Agreement August 1, 2015 – July 31, 2020). These are, therefore, tax dollars to be used for the benefit of all of Knox County.
"Although the Board recognizes that these requests require research and accountability to fiscal practices, we do not feel these requests are hostile, but rather serve as a pathway to organizational stability in support of the Knox County community. If this diligence is indeed the source of an allegation, there have been no formal complaints brought forward by Mr. Crow to the CVB Board of a hostile work environment.
“For clarification and consideration: Mr. Crow is currently employed by the CVB part-time for 20 hours a week to manage the daily operations of the organization. Mr. Crow also chooses to serve his community in capacities other than his employment such as project manager for the Woodward Development Corporation and director of the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival, of which the CVB has no authority. The CVB bears no legal or operational responsibilities through Mr. Crow’s efforts other than those requested, approved, and supported by the CVB Board.
“The CVB is in support of every Knox County festival, including the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival. Our hope is that if Pat and Sandy Crow do step away from the festival, others in the community will come forward to continue the tradition of a downtown festival in August.”
Pat Crow declined to comment for this story.