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A few months after Cleaver presented the check, the Mutual Musicians Foundation board received a letter from Paul Tancredi, an attorney who had been hired by a group of disgruntled foundation members.
Tancredi's letter advised the board to pay closer attention to the foundation's bylaws. The bylaws, among other things, call for the election of officers every two years.
It was a first attempt to pry Crow's fingers from control over the foundation. Even her admirers say the grip was tight. One foundation member, who did not want to be named, says Crow should have shared more responsibility. "She was like a mother hen," the member says.
Crow had achieved a lot. But in the process, the rank and file had become disengaged.
Henry was among those leading the effort to redistribute power. As chair of the nominating committee, Henry approached the job like a prosecutor. On October 12, she sent the foundation board a request for information. The list was extensive. In addition to financial reports, Henry asked for grant information, vendor lists and five years' worth of band bookings.
Henry also questioned UMKC's stewardship of the photo collection and asked the board to answer the "rumor" that the Historic Jazz Foundation represented a takeover of the foundation. The letter, finally, painted Crow as a bigot, citing "several reports of musicians and lay people who ... have believed their treatment by Betty Crow to be less than hospitable, and downright racist."
Crow and the board did not respond to the committee. Crow tells The Pitch that the racism charge is "not something I would even want to answer to."
Two weeks later, Henry wrote to Cleaver, restating her grievances and suspicions. She asked that the congressman retitle the earmark so that the Historic Jazz Foundation did not receive the money.
The nominating committee presented its slate of candidates on November 25. The committee distributed its slate under "duress and protest," citing the lack of cooperation from the existing board. The document, distributed via group e-mail, included definitions from Black's Law Dictionary.
The parliamentary-tinted dramatics annoyed some foundation members. Bobby Watson, a saxophone player and the director of jazz studies at the UMKC Conservatory of Music, fired off a "reply all" that called the duress-and-protest rhetoric "[b]ullshit and a personal matter."
"Let's just get the process started without the drama," Watson continued. "This does nobody any good and makes one hesitant to come on board. I am sick of this shit!"
Veteran saxophone player Ahmad Alaadeen suggested that anyone feeling under duress should resign. He added: "The Foundation is for musicians and the music, not for anyone's political agenda."
In any event, change was on the way. The one board member who ran for re-election, Celeste Rogers Reed, lost. "I think the membership has spoken," Rogers Reed tells The Pitch. Asked about the harsh words used in the weeks leading up to the election, Rogers Reed says: "I might have done it in a different way, but it needed to be heard." (Rogers Reed and Ray Reed are not related.)
Will Matthews won the president's race. "The members wanted change," he says. "They wanted to be involved again."
Once in office, the new leaders immediately began to reassess the partnerships established during Crow's time.
One of those relationships was with Mark Edelman, the director of Theatre League. In July 2009, Theatre League began putting on live radio broadcasts of 12 OClock Jump, a sort of blues-and-jazz version of A Prairie Home Companion, from the foundation.
Matthews' tone suggested he and others felt that Theatre League was taking advantage of the foundation. In his e-mail, Matthews described Theatre League as "a multi-million dollar entity."