The former treasurer of the N.C. Renaissance Faire said she resigned from her position because of how the organization’s business was handled and its financial state.
“I have deep concern over the financial stability of NCRF,” said Sherrie Williams, a social worker from Rocky Mount and longtime Renaissance Faire volunteer. Williams, who served as treasurer of a local Girl Scout board, said she accepted the post at NCRF because she thought she had skills that would be helpful. But instead, she found transactions in disarray and she was limited in her ability to fix them.
Williams said she and three of the six board members resigned in June. She said a large group of volunteers plan to boycott the faire.
Its president, Donna Varner-Sheaves has sought approval from Knightdale Town Council to hold the Faire in Knightdale. She is asking the town for help from its public works department to clean up the site after the fair and the public safety department for help maintaining crowd control.
Town Manager Seth Lawless estimated it would cost the town from $5,000 to $10,000. At its last meeting, the town council decided to hold off on a vote until it had a proposal in place with exactly what it was agreeing to.
A day after the meeting, Varner-Sheaves announced on the North Carolina Renaissance Web site and Facebook page that the organization is holding the faire in Knightdale every Saturday and Sunday in April, 2011.
“We have a site,” said Varner-Sheaves. “We feel that with the site we can announce the date.”
At a recent council meeting, Varner-Sheaves told council members about the site — part of Poplar Creek Village designated for future phases. She has a lease agreement with Holly Home Developer David Menaker to lease the land for $20,000.
Varner-Sheaves told council she does not have to pay the $20,000 because of an agreement with Menaker.
In an e-mail from Menaker to Varner-Sheaves containing the lease agreement and cover letters, Menaker wrote, in part, “I did not mention our donation of the lease amount back to you … So you can explain that this is the typical amount and that you are used to raising it and paying — to show your capital strength and … if we have to go back to them we can use this information later to increase the pressure on them. Our agreement still stands.”
“She’s trying to get her finances together. …,” Menaker said in response to the email. “We’ve offered to let her use the field because we think it’s good for the town.”
Menaker said as he and Varner-Sheaves worked out the terms of the agreement, she told him the organization usually has the land valued at $20,000 to $30,000 donated back to them as rent.“I told them we would do that back to her,” said Menaker. “That council needs to be pressured into making some smart decisions.”
The North Carolina Renaissance Faire faces a suit in Wake County small claims court filed by performer David McCullough of Danville, Va. and an Alexandria, Virginia entertainment law firm has been contacting Varner-Sheaves about debts with six more performers.
“We’ve made many overtures and came to the conclusion she has no intention of paying,” said Brian Taylor Goldstein of FRM Arts Law. “We’re still considering our options at this point.”
Goldstein said he represents six actors who had worked for Varner-Sheaves.
“I appreciate the situation she’s in. It’s not uncommon for nonprofits. The aspect of the problem is how it’s being handled. It’s your obligation of making the actors feel comfortable — that you have a plan and this is how you’re going to pay them when you can. Her attitude has been ‘We’re a nonprofit, deal with it.’ There are more professional ways of handling it.”