The founder of Baltimore's Artscape festival insisted yesterday that the event had no connection to City Hall during the Schaefer years although it was run by municipal employees out of city offices.
Instead, Jody Albright testified in Baltimore Circuit Court, the summer festival really was run by the little-known Baltimore Arts Festival Inc., a nonprofit corporation.
Mrs. Albright also said that she solicited funds for Artscape on behalf of the nonprofit corporation only.
"I never solicited [Artscape funds] on behalf of the City of Baltimore," she said.
Mrs. Albright testified in the second day of a trial sparked by a lawsuit the Schmoke administration filed against Baltimore Arts Festival Inc. set up by the administration of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
Schmoke administration lawyers filed suit to gain control of $700,000 in Artscape donations that were transferred to a second nonprofit corporation, the Maryland Community Foundation, after Mr. Schaefer became governor.
William A. McDaniel Jr., Mrs. Albright's lawyer, claims that Artscape was always run and controlled by a nonprofit corporation and that Mrs. Albright and other former Artscape officials have the right to control the money.
Mrs. Albright seemed to go to great lengths in her testimony to distance the arts festival from city government where she was the director of the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture in the early 1980s. Several times she said she could not recall how her city agency was involved in Artscape in its early years.
Mrs. Albright, now Governor Schaefer's arts adviser, also said that she transferred Artscape money to another nonprofit corporation after Mr. Schaefer left City Hall because she was trying to protect the money from a future mayor who might have canceled the festival.
Under questioning from city attorney Burton H. Levin, she admitted that Artscape has continued under Mr. Schmoke, who took office in 1987. At that point, Judge Andre M. Davis blurted out to her, "You've taken their money, haven't you?"
When Judge Davis asked Mrs. Albright why she believes the money is safer in her control, she answered, "Just because it's our creation. It is something we will never let anything happen to."
"So you are better able than the city [to control the money]?" asked Judge Davis.
"That's my belief," said Mrs. Albright. "I believe that from the bottom of my tippy toes."
In presenting the city's case, Mr. Levin introduced into evidence several copies of letters Mrs. Albright wrote on city stationery soliciting donations for Artscape. Mr. Levin also pointed out that Baltimore Arts Festival's tax returns list the corporation's
address as a city government office that houses the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture.
Mrs. Albright insisted she was not representing the city when she raised money for Artscape.
"I'm trying to understand that the city played no role and yet you, as a city employee, were the point person for Artscape?" Judge Davis asked. "How could the city play no role? Weren't you the city?"
Anthony W. Deering, president of the Rouse Co. and a board member of the Baltimore Arts Festival Inc. who helped raise Artscape funds, had testified Wednesday that "Artscape was a city event . . . and the city ran it."
Mrs. Albright insisted yesterday that, while city workers helped put on the event, "Artscape was a project of [Baltimore Arts Festival]. [Baltimore Arts Festival] was responsible for Artscape."