Article

MUSEUM’S SELF-SERVING “SUMMARY OF FINANCES” HIDES MORE THAN IT REVEALS

BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

Second of a Four-Part Series

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY SEPT. 27, 2017) — The avalanche of outrage over the Berkshire Museum‘s (BM) proposed sale  of artwork — significant works by important artists, including two large, “marquee” canvasses by Norman Rockwell — descended so swiftly upon the hapless director and his board that they took the unusual step of trying to dig out of a mud slide using plastic forks. On its website recently, the organization posted a self-serving misdirection titled “A Summary of the Berkshire Museum’s Finances.”

The document tells you all (though not everything) you need to know to fathom the crass, heartless stupidity of Van Shields, the BM’s executive mad bomber; “Buzz” McGraw, Shields’ gun moll as board president; and the remainder of the wagon circlers euphemistically known as the BM’s Bored of Untrustees, a “Who’s Who” of local La-De-Das that suck down booze at HON and other “hip, vibrant” watering holes, and suck Richard to, for, and of anyone who can further feather their filthy nests. In an upcoming column, THE PLANET shall identify each of these cheap Suits.

The “Summary” begins with the understatement of the local millennium: “There have ben a lot of questions about the Museum’s finances in recent week.”

Stop the presses right there. In THE PLANET‘s years as a daily newspaper guy, we used to call this a “N.S.” statement. The abbreviation stands for “no spit,” only the word isn’t spit. You get the defecated idea.

The “Statement” then turns pathetic: “We are sharing some facts and details with you that we hope will help you understand the circumstances that led to the Board taking bold action and moving forward with the New Vision.” Ah, where to start, loved ones? How about the sugar-coating, whereby these dolts refer to the Rape of the City — and why isn’t  it that, “it” being the destruction of the county seat’s cultural gem? —  as “bold action” in service to “the New Vision?”

No, dipspits, “bold action” would have been to fire Shields’ ass sometime into his losing streak of running the facility into the ground with millions of debt.

The documents next presents text and  graphics trying unsuccessfully to substitute pathos for outright mismanagement. The big tipoff the BM isn’t dealing straight comes in the text, where the document gets into word-eating non-sequiturs designed to throw you off the scent. The document spends paragraphs defining needless terms such as “Operating Revenue,” “Operating Expenses,” “Non-operating revenue,” “Non-operating expenses,” “Depreciation,” “Net Assets,” and “Structural (Operating) Deficit.” At first, the readers wanders through the forest, bewildered. Enlightenment comes near the end, when it becomes clear why the BM chose to define these arcane terms. It did so to try to pull a fast one, the way a Three-Card Monty dealer moves the cards around.

The smoking gun is how the documents buries “operating and non-operating revenue and expenses.” THE PLANET‘s turn as The Old Professor came in handy. On a multiple choice test, all things being equal, the best place to put the correct answer in a series of five or more choices is in the middle. That’s where the BM puts the bull about needing to distinguish between the operational difference between two sets of revenue. In light of where the document then goes, anyone with the least amount of sophistication in reading financial statements knows this is equivalent to the Monty dealer removing what they call the “mark cark,” the one he makes disappear so the sucker can’t select it.

The reason for the deception comes at the end, with this tell-tale paragraph: “Another finance-related document that is available online are the museum’s IRS form 990s, but the 990s do not tell the entire story. 990s do not differentiate between operating and non-operating revenue and expenses. Such details are key for anyone who is trying to analyze the museum’s … financial position and operating results.”

Hah!

In this smoldering paragraph, the document admits that the IRS does not distinguish between “operating and non-operating revenue and expenses.” It doesn’t give the reason, which is that when analyzing the financial position of the BM or any other not-for-profit, this distinction should not be made. Simply put, when determining the financial health of the institution, there is income and outflow. Period. The Feds say so. Most every reputable accountant will say so. The last sentence to the above-quoted paragraph should read, if truth be of concern here, “Such details are key for the Shields and the Trustees to try to hide or at least minimize the fact that over the previous decade, they’ve run up $25,812,436 in expenses and collected only $13,933,144 of income. For all you math geniuses, that has produced a deficit of nearly $12 million.” You try running your small business or household like that. See if you stay alive for ten years.

Great stewardship, eh?

Fact is, Shields, McGraw, the Trustees, Trasha Fataway-Boobier, MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson, Jimmy Ruberto, and anyone else who supports setting the insane precedent of selling off entrusted art have let go a wet fart. They tried to sneak it out, deadly-but-silent. However, it ran off the edges, brown, liquid, and down the cheeks. When the smell got bad enough, the BM lost its head and heart. That’s how and why one produces a financial statement so deceiving. Don’t fall for it.

Tomorrow in Part 3, THE PLANET gives you inside baseball about the politics of the BM’s decision. It’s laughable but it ain’t pretty, and it involves some familiar names.

——————————————————————————-

“Smiles show once a while but much farther apart, and I take a good look at the the time that it took to find one.”Mick Valenti, “I Know Everyone.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

The Usual Disclaimer.

52 Responses to “MUSEUM’S SELF-SERVING “SUMMARY OF FINANCES” HIDES MORE THAN IT REVEALS”

  1. dusty
    September 27, 2017 at 12:51 am #

    So the city bent over backwards and did back flips to “save” the Colonial Theater because it was our heritage and too precious to lose. (The game back then was that it would cost taxpayers 2 million dollars to save the theater. Then, inexplicably the cost went way over 20 million dollars)

    But now, gifted paintings from honored and generous ancestors are not too precious to lose. Pittsfield has been in the business of selling its soul for some time now. If you have ever seen a time lapse video of a grape turning into a raisin you have an idea of where Pittsfield is heading.

    • Mad Trapper
      September 27, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

      Lets not forget the “city swindle ” of the public library. Remember back when, it was unstable, and needed demolition?

      How is it it now the probate court gets along fine?

  2. SojournerTruth
    September 27, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    Somewhat off topic, albeit germane to the stewardship of funding by Pittsfield’s politicians and entrenched power brokers.
    The city council allocated $1 million of GE development fund monies to attempt to move the BIC forward after an original shortfall estimate in costs. Mayor Tyer is also asking for an additional $580,000 from this GE fund for LTI smart glass expansion. It’s reported that as of August 31st the fund had a $4,6 million balance remaining.These recent moves will reduce it even further.
    How may jobs has it created thus far? Where was this GE fund utilized previously and were the results positive ???
    Anyone know ?

    • Spider
      September 27, 2017 at 7:13 am #

      S. Truth – Here we go again! This time $580.00 for LTI smart glass. Add that to the list of foolish money give aways this city is famous for.

      Another disaster waiting to happen!

      • Diet Red
        September 27, 2017 at 9:51 am #

        If the Buffoons in the NFL don’t have to stand for the NA and claim 1st amendant then I claim the same right to comment on an elected official…..Don’t be a fascist Torch.

  3. Shakes His Head
    September 27, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    1. The body shaming of Tricia is getting out of hand. It is beyond caricature. I get the intent, however it loses credibility with its offensiveness.

    2. I am shocked with all the conservative viewpoints on this page opposing the sale of art that the museum finds incompatible with its mission in order to create an operations and capital endowment. You would rather take money from the City then have the museum attempt self sufficiency.

    • War Pigs
      September 27, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      1. Agreed
      2. I’m not a conservative so can’t speak for those who are but if selling the museum art is part of the mission then the mission is wrong and I think that’s the complaint. Apparently the BM finances have been handled poorly for way too long – as evidenced by 12 mil in losses – and the selling of assets may just be a way to ensure those receiving big paychecks continue to do so until it’s forced to close down. We’ve all seen these tactics before in corporate America when CEOs run companies into the ground yet receive a golden parachute.

    • Diet Red
      September 27, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      I’m offended by her giving herself a raise. She is the very deffination of offensive.

      • LoneGunMan
        September 27, 2017 at 10:08 am #

        I’m offended how she talks down to her constituents as if they were serfs; then champions tax raises “for the schools and for the children” then school choices hers to lenox.

        Shes a hypocrite and a hippopotamus and I feel no guilt in saying that. Shame on her

        • Thomas More
          September 27, 2017 at 11:18 am #

          Totally agree with your first paragraph. She ran on the WHEN label. Women Helping to Enrich Neighborhoods. With the backing of the future HON proprietor the WHEN ladies set out to enrich themselves and they all succeeded, big time. HON woman got the huge TIF, Tyre went from $30,000 school clerk to $105,000 mayor and TFB, we all know what she did and is still doing.

          • danvalenti
            September 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

            All fair points, TM.

  4. War Pigs
    September 27, 2017 at 6:27 am #

    You can bet your life that a large part of these operating/non operating expenses are the hugely bloated salaries of Shields and his cronies.

    • Bill Q
      September 27, 2017 at 6:48 am #

      Just look at you’re area employers, most are non profits or municipal jobs. This isn’t Jung Science.

  5. H
    September 27, 2017 at 6:49 am #

    Lets see if the 500 we gave Covanta pans out.

  6. Shakes His Head
    September 27, 2017 at 6:52 am #

    Just close the place and be done with it.

    • danvalenti
      September 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm #

      You are likely in jest here, but you have recommended a solution that is, in fact, the best one. Since the director and board cannot run the museum short of millions in debt, they should close shop and donate their works to other, more vibrant and better run museums, institutes that are run by qualified professionals and not carpetbaggers.

  7. Mr. G
    September 27, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    I like to give any story, especially a serialized one, the benefit of the doubt, but so far Dan you are heavy on name calling & mud slinging to rile up your people, and light on substance. What are the operating or non-operating expenses and income to which you object? The smoking gun you cite…is it the fact or the process? A smoking gun should be pretty obvious, not nuanced with metaphor to enhance or obfuscate. Honestly, 2 installments in, your expose is murkier than that which you are trying to expose.

    Are there actually illegal, unacceptable things buried in the financials? Tell us that. So far you have impugned the integrity of everyone involved but told us little other than how the financial docs are structured so that they might hide something. Get to the point. Unless you’ve intentionally buried your lead in order to keep us coming back for the payoff.

    I strongly oppose the selling off of the soul of the museum’s collection, especially the Rockwells which the artist donated himself for the people of the area he loved to enjoy forever. That is wrong; truly unconscionable. I also think the idea of re-inventing a museum that focuses on a clientele that is rapidly shrinking, and is projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, namely children, is extremely ill-advised.

    But the questions here are: How did we get to this point? Was it mismanagement or malfeasance? Prove one or the other, address how it can be fixed (without selling the metaphorical soul of the museum) and start doing the necessary work. Name calling and mud slinging, while entertaining, are not at all productive. And as an aside, I have known Buzz McGraw for a long time. I assure you she is not benefiting financially in ANY way from being a museum trustee, nor would she need to. She also does not live in or even very near Pittsfield and is not at all associated with the Pittsfield insider/GoodOldBoy network. She is also an excellent hockey player who could kick your ass on skates!

    I am hoping you find, or get to a point here with this eventually, because otherwise this will be cumulatively about 40 minutes or so out of my life that I can never get back. Thanks Dan.

    • War Pigs
      September 27, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

      Mr. G, can you tell me if the trustees, including Buzz McGraw, get paid for their work with the BM? I do not know but would like to.
      Also, the fact she does not live near Pittsfield is very concerning as she’s likely not familiar with the history and heart and soul of the BM.

      • Mr. G
        September 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

        I would highly doubt the trusrees are paid anything. In fact, to be a trustee of any non profit like this one usually has to open up both their checkbooks and their address book to become part of development efforts. While being on the board of the Met or the MFA is prestigious, being on the board of the Berkshire Museum is likely mostly expensive, time consuming and pretty thankless.

      • Trikidick Hanoyjayne
        September 30, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

        I love Aplanet

    • danvalenti
      September 27, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

      G
      This critique is well expressed. We appreciate such a thoughtful comment.

  8. Wild in the Streets
    September 27, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    G is totally missing the point. In all reality, management has run the Museum into the ground. Shaky leadership could be the reason, let’s look at the books. Buzz and Darren is skating on thin ice

    • Shakes His Head
      September 27, 2017 at 9:12 am #

      What museum operates in the black without public subsidy? I challenge you to name one.

      • Diet Red
        September 27, 2017 at 9:45 am #

        Yeah, let’s have a 2 1/2 overide and put the museum on welfare while the retired starve.

      • mi
        September 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

        The Planet, Business of the Peeps.

  9. Dustin M
    September 27, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    Mr Valenti, perhaps we could advance this as a solution. How about one of the rich south county liberals put up some money to buy 1 or more of the paintings, then give them back to the Museum via a perpetual loan.

    Of course that would mean these liberals putting their money where their mouth is…..

    • Shakes His Head
      September 27, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

      Maybe the Planet could implement this proposal.

      • 12 Gauge
        September 27, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

        Bouvier, Smitty, Paul Marx and Hinds should take the raises they gave themselves and do this. Maybe Tyer could throw a few bucks from her raise into the kitty.

    • War Pigs
      September 27, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

      All liberals on the board and liberals just love to spend other people’s money.

  10. dusty
    September 27, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    Correct me if i am wrong but I thought a recent article i read suggested that the last time this guy had a large some of donated money to spend on a museum the board was blocked from seeing where it was going and that upset them very much. And this was another time and another place though not so long ago.

    • Madame Du Barry
      September 27, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

      dusty, you are a reasonable person. This is Not unlike Trump’s tax cuts for the Wealthy. Trump said today they (wealthy) do not benefit the rich. In my opinion and I’m 1000 per cent correct, and I hope Dr.Trazinka sees this, is, that,they are back door tax cuts. On paper, clever accountants can hide capital by leveraging to do certain things, many expenses can be laid out as capital or private. Pittsdield needs to get out of the helping hand fund, ninety nine percent of the City’s monies laid out are perks to people like the New Yorkers, who are loaded to begin with,and double dip at the expense of the taxpayer. Be very leery to these entities, most of them are self sustaining and take advantage through political favor, while not being in the best interest of the average joe.

    • War Pigs
      September 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

      If true the board should have canned his ass. But that would take effort.

  11. Paul
    September 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    I have an idea, let’s take the proceeds from the art sale and build a transfer station on the PETA property. Would make more sense as soon as the money runs out the city will be screwed. The museum plan is pittiful and everyone knows it. A transfer station on industrial prorerty would be a cash cow for the city.

    • danvalenti
      September 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

      PAUL
      You make an essential point. The BM’s “New Vision” plan falls woefully short. As a previous comment noted, the board and Shields want to take McDonald’s Playland (what they created after destroying a venerable, adult institution) and turn it into a Chuck E. Cheese. The plan is, indeed, “pitiful,” as you aptly say.

      • Shakes His Head
        September 27, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

        Then try to persuade the board of a different vision, or did you not participate and now don’t agree with the result. None of you are among the hundreds of people enfranchised within that process.

        • Diet Red
          September 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

          Have they ever had anything resembling a public hearing where community imput was sought?

          • War Pigs
            September 27, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

            All this stuff is done behind closed doors in secret. Public input is not allowed, and even if it was would be totally ignored.

        • War Pigs
          September 27, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

          SHH, many people are trying to convince the board now but they aren’t listening. And they kept all this pretty well hidden while they were working on it, no?

          • CosbiesLadies
            September 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

            It’s been in the Eagle for months. Why, to say it was vetted, no one came forward against,so it’s ok? A crude statement, who’s paying the Eagle for those adds?

        • danvalenti
          September 27, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

          This is naive in the extreme, as you should know, SHH. You have seen your share of it. Any serious public participation would be ignored or ridiculed.

          • Shakes His Head
            September 27, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

            I can only speak to my professionalism.

  12. Sum Ting Wong
    September 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    50-mass-communities-with-most-violent-crime

  13. gocometti
    September 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    The BM is a PRIVATE non-profit and does not have to have any public meetings for any public input. In the past the City has given the BM monies for a climate control air filtration system to safe guard its collection of art. Many of the same persons who sit on the BM board of directors also pushed years back for a Civic Authority and have been power brokers in the community. It’s all about fundraising and the BM lack of doing NATIONAL fund raising campaigns. Forget local fundraising only fundraising on a national scale is what will succeed. Not local bake sales and local fund drives. George Lucas is a great collector of Rockwell’s work and is building a museum to house Rockwell’s paintings in California…that is the scale of National Fundraising that will succeed….but the board of the BM is only interested in selling off priceless works of art that should remain in our community. A very sad state of affairs.

    • danvalenti
      September 27, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

      Good point about the private nature of the BM. All the more reason to deprive it of every public dollar.

  14. CosbiesLadies
    September 27, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

    I think Rockwell is overrated.

  15. mi
    September 27, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

    Anyone familiar with Ava Freeman?

  16. Gigi
    September 27, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    In yesterday’s USA Today, in the section that highlights one news article from every state – guess what the Massachusetts story was? The Pittsfield Museum and the proposed selling of artworks!! We’re on the map!

    • danvalenti
      September 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

      The city has made news in media worldwide, virtually all of it condemning the BM’s stupidity.

  17. Jonathan Melle
    September 27, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    Pittsfield politics has always been a slick operation behind closed doors with done deals made by the Good Old Boys!
    Jimmy Ruberto is the King of the Good Old Boys!

  18. jake E. Lee
    September 29, 2017 at 6:04 am #

    how about we put Pat Muraca in charge of the museum ?

    • danvalenti
      September 29, 2017 at 7:30 am #

      Great idea. And David Kiley can be treasurer.