Brouhaha at Harborarts

April 16, 2014
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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.

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