Arts Center’s former director issued special deal
The former executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts was issued a restorative justice agreement contract last month, a commitment that gives an accused person the option to perform various tasks like community service and paying fines, instead of going to trial or entering a plea deal.
According to Garfield County Court documents, Christina Brusig, who had pleaded not guilty last December to misdemeanor theft charges, is ordered to write letters of apology to the community and to those harmed by the closing of the arts center.
She must also complete 50 hours of community service, and pay a $2,000 fine to the 9th District Attorney, to be handed over to the Glenwood Springs Arts Council, according to the agreement.
The document says she will communicate with her family once a week to repair harm to them, adding that she has since moved to Wyoming to receive counseling and repair any personal damage.
Deputy District Attorney Jill Edinger said that the idea of a restorative justice agreement is to give an accused person the opportunity to rebuild ties to their community, adding that she, a district attorney, and a host of people harmed by the crime were responsible in crafting the list of responsibilities.
The document lists reverberations of the crime as: destruction of the arts council, which has served the community for more than 35 years, loss of the Center for the Arts building, loss of employment for staff and teachers, and the unquantifiable impact on hundreds of students, whose classes were interrupted or terminated as a result of the closure of the center.
According to the contract, Brusig must check in with a facilitator at the DA’s office once a week to note her progress.
She’s scheduled to reappear in court on July 30 for a status conference, which will determine her compliance.
If all tasks are not completed by Aug. 31, the case will go to trial.
A two-day trial had been scheduled for the end of last week, but was canceled in lieu of the restorative justice agreement.
The 31-year-old Brusig was charged in November 2017 with misdemeanor theft, after months of investigation into the arts organization’s finances.
Statute defines Class 1 misdemeanor theft as theft of between $750 and $2,000, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
According to documents in the case, in January of 2017 the center’s board confronted Brusig with concerns about mismanagement of the nonprofit’s finances.
Eventually the board told her that she could either resign or be terminated, according to Kate McRaith, the former art center board president.
McRaith said last August that Brusig had consistently presented a positive picture of the organization’s finances. But after her departure in early April, the board started finding hard numbers on the art center’s debt and unpaid bills.
The city of Glenwood Springs, which partially funded the Center for the Arts, paid the executive director’s salary, and leased the former city hydroelectric building to the organization, had its own concerns and launched a police investigation.
The arts board said in late April that the operation owed $68,000, but had only $5,000 in assets.
The books were in disarray, and the art center couldn’t pay its teachers. The city soon announced it was pulling its $50,000 annual funding for the arts center. The nonprofit began negotiating with the city to try to remain intact.
An audit completed in June found $4,789 in “likely unauthorized” expenses, another $5,937 in expenses that may have been unauthorized, and $9,455 worth of payroll and other reimbursements to Brusig that auditors said required further explanation.
Brusig told the Post Independent at the time that all the expenses detailed in the auditor’s report had been approved by the board.
The city ended up agreeing to pay art center teachers more than $20,000 after they’d gone for months without pay. That agreement, however, required the art center to end its contract with the city and vacate the building.
In an unrelated matter, Brusig pleaded guilty last April to felony check fraud in Eagle County District Court, in exchange for a deferred sentence. She had been charged with check fraud earlier that year, after her landlord, who resided in Eagle County, reported that she had written about $18,000 in bad checks after going about nine months without paying rent.
In that case, if she successfully completes two years’ probation for the deferred sentence and paid restitution in that time period, her guilty plea would be withdrawn and the case dismissed, prosecutors said.
It is unclear what will happen with that previous charge in light of the additional theft case.
The Glenwood Arts Council has since reorganized and has been working to regroup with new program offerings. The city has also taken over some arts classes through its recreation programming, and the Summer of Music has reorganized as its own separate entity.
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