City Hits Reset on State Street Art

Government

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY JUN 6, 2017

The process for selecting art in the State Street Parking Garage will start anew, following a decision by Sarasota City Commissioners to toss plans to award $100,000 to the son-in-law of the city’s parking director. After a scandal that resulted in three city employees suffering suspensions and cuts in pay, commissioners say they had no choice but to reboot the process. “This is the only way that we have a process free of taint,” said Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie.

The decision discards a year’s worth of work into selecting an artist to install murals and sculptures at the newly constructed parking garage. A total of 23 artists submitted proposals for the contract. Commissioners said artists are free to resubmit.

The previous process got derailed after an April meeting of the Public Art Committee, where members heard from five finalists chosen to develop detailed proposals for the board. Committee members ultimately divided 2-2 between two presentations, one from Mark Krucke and one from Michael Parker and Richie Brasil. The committee then consulted with Parking Director Mark Lyons, who said the use of spray paint in the Parker-Brasil proposal would be a “terrible idea” and that the project lacked wayfinding practicality; he never disclosed that Krucke was married to his daughter. The committee then broke 3-1 in favor of Krucke’s proposal.

An investigation later determined Krucke and two city officials with knowledge of the relationship, Planning Manager David Smith and Planner Clifford Smith, handled the situation improperly. City Attorney Robert Fournier recommended commissioners cancel the original call to artists, saying those who did not get selected could say the city treated their proposals unfairly. The move doesn’t completely shield the city from a lawsuit now, but Fournier said the city will be in a more defensible position because it cancelled the call without ever awarding a final contract. Furthermore, Fournier said conflicts of interest should have been disclosed before the Committee made its recommendation, and that the fact Lyons had been involved in crafting the original call to artists further complicated matters.

Krucke told commissioners this move effectively punished the artist for a mistake by city administration. “The administration did know about this relationship,” he says. “They tried to uphold the integrity of the Art Committee by not disclosing it… [The Committee] made an unbiased recommendation at that date.” A number of local artists came to a City Commission meeting in Krucke’s defense, but commissioners ultimately responded that liability outweighed other concerns.

City Commissioner Hagen Brody said he intentionally did not look at any of the artwork because the problem ultimately came in the failure for staff to reveal the relationship to the committee. “I want our staff to know this is unacceptable,” Brody said. “Full disclosure of issues and conflicts should be the standard. This whole process has been upsetting to watch.”

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