Latino Arts Groups Fight Over Control of L.A. Theatre

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Latino Museum of History, Art, and Culture claims that its co-tenant, the Latino Theater Company, breached a lease agreement on the building they share on Skid Row by spending grant funds designated for building maintenance on payroll, insurance premiums, and theatrical services.

     The museum and theater company share a building on Spring Street in Los Angeles’s downtown wholesale district. The Superior Court complaint alleges that in January 2006 the two nonprofits entered jointly into a lease agreement with the city and were given state funds to renovate and maintain the Los Angeles Theater Company building, to improve the community through arts and culture.
     The museum claims the two groups agreed to operate separately but to share the state money and the responsibilities associated with the funds.
     The organizations were to keep a total balance of $750,000 in a Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) account, to be used exclusively for maintenance and operations.
     The museum alleges that by February this year the account had been exhausted by the theater company. When the museum confronted the theater about it, the theater offered no explanation, but gave the museum a bill for more than $825,000, according to the complaint.
     The theater claimed the bill was for the museum’s operating expenses and its initial contribution to the BOMA fund. The museum denies owing the $825,000 and claims that the theater is responsible for replenishing the BOMA account.
     The museum claims the theater company used a 50/50 share equation to calculate the bill, though the museum has never used more than 20 percent of the building’s space and operating expenses.
     The museum claims the theater company used the BOMA money in violation of the lease agreement to cover business expenses.
     The theater company’s artistic director Jose Luis Valenzuela said he could not comment and said he had not seen the lawsuit.
     The museum says it can no longer pay the true expenses to maintain the building because it has been forced to pay thousands in past due utilities and its employees have become the buildings part-time janitors.
     A call to the museum’s administrative office was not immediately returned.
     The museum demands damages for breach of contract, trade libel and trespass. It is represented by Ronald Vera of Claremont.

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