Brouhaha at Harborarts

April 16, 2014
By

Following an emergency meeting regarding the HarborArts finances, there are some serious allegations being levied by HarborArts board members against Executive Director Matt Pollock for an alleged misappropriation of funds.

The alleged behavior of Pollock has led to the resignation of several key board members and could damage the future of the  popular outdoor art program and exhibit in East Boston.

As of Tuesday the HarborArts phone number had been disconnected.

Board member Marie Cornuelle and Laura Elsen, managing director of HarborArts, took HarborArts’ bank statements and other documents they found in the HarborArts office to the District 7 East Boston Police station for examination because of the serious nature of their discoveries.

Boston Police confirmed there is currently an active investigation.

According to a letter obtained by the East Boston Times, Cornuelle wrote, “We were actually preparing for the May 1st fundraiser and trying to distribute a grant from the East Boston Foundation when we discovered many things I still cannot mention in regard to the executive leadership and an officer at HarborArts. Detective Miguel Montesino took our statement and examined some of our evidence and determined our complaint against Matthew Pollock formally alleging manipulating the funds and misappropriating the bookkeeping.”

Given the seriousness of the allegations against Pollock, the D-7 detective advised the HarborArts board to warn members of the community and to get the board to file an official complaint with the Attorney General and IRS.

“When I also questioned Matt (Pollock), regarding missing Occupying the Present funds from last summer, he allegedly became verbally abusive and threatening,” Cornuelle said she told the police. Police confirmed there is a complaint regarding the incident. The incident report is 140208298 and states,  “Cash donations allegedly went missing and the accounting looked very sketchy.”

Cornuelle said there was no oversight in place or formal review of any of HarborArts’ bank accounts and also discovered that the information supplied to the Attorney General and the IRS did not match.

“The IRS showed a required form 990 was not completed and filed since 2011 even though the 990 Form was supplied to the Attorney General,” said Cornuelle. “When I questioned Matt and Steve (Israel) about many matters, no answers were ever returned to me and still have not been presented. I also discovered that Matt’s father was allegedly making charitable donations to HarborArts and Matt was allegedly immediately withdrawing the funds for personal use. Matt was also allegedly using his father’s bookkeeper to compile financial statements that I believe would not survive an IRS audit.”

Because of the mounting scandal, Cornuelle and Elsen are consulting with attorneys and have officially filed their resignations from the board.

“I will be taking all artists, programming and fundraising partners with me when I resign,” wrote Cornuelle. “Laura (Elsen) and I will also complete an official complaint with the Attorney General’s office and submit information to the IRS Hotline. It has pained us all to go through this horrible experience volunteering at a non-profit and hoping for this chance to provide our community with some meaningful and exciting experiences.” The fallout from the allegation also drove Mic Billingsley from the Peabody Essex Museum to resign from the board of directors as did Rachel Edwards from the Winn Co. along with Jessica Rothschuh.

  • Jeffries

    This story is incomplete without the other side of the story. You should have waited to run this until you had the perspective of the Executive Director and other board members. Shame on you.

  • Henry

    It seems from this article that almost all the staff and the board members resigned except for President and Founder, Steve Israel, now residing in Mexico. The article also states the office number is disconnected and an attempt to reach the Executive Director seems to have been made.

  • ThreeDecker

    Excellent reporting of a local issue. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of the community.

  • Jennifer

    It seems like East Boston has some brave non-profit volunteers willing to put community interests before their own. I sincerely hope the police are truly investigating the executive director and the non-profit in general to see if this lack of oversight has been going on for some time. Great reporting and all the donors should be notified about the lack of independent auditing. If someone goes into a store and steals something worth more than $250, it is a felony. The punishment should not be different if you are an executive in charge of finances.

  • Marie Cornuelle

    A correction to this article needs to be made: I, Marie Cornuelle, was the former volunteer director of programming for HarborArts, Inc., and not a “board member.” Laura Elsen, was the former volunteer managing director for HarborArts, Inc., and also not a “board member.” Steve Israel is now claiming that Matthew Pollock was an “unpaid” for his work at HarborArts but this is not a true statement. It is true, according to Matthew Pollock, himself that he was not filing any personal tax returns. The bank statements we reviewed in order to prepare and put the finances in order, showed Matthew Pollock’s parents, Andy and Lynn Pollock, of Hudson, Mass., writing donations to HarborArts, Inc., and Pollock immediately writing himself checks and also withdrawing cash from a Central Square ATM. There were many things in the bank statements that pointed to mismanagement of funds, especially if the founder is claiming he was “unpaid,” now. There were no invoices and receipts or proper oversight over the bank accounts. Laura Elsen, the former managing director, was trying to pay artists that participated in a summer 2013 exhibit, entitled “Occupying the Present,” when she encountered many problems in distributing the funds due to interference from the executive director. The payments for this exhibit were nearly seven months overdue. Also, Laura Elsen, witnessed Matthew Pollock measuring bags of marijuana on a scale in the HarborArts’ office and became alarmed at the prospect of creating youth programs with an executive director selling drugs from the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. We took action to protect ourselves after being verbally threatened by Pollock and also to protect our at risk community from more harm.

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