ONEONTA _ First Night Oneonta has not paid its dues to its parent First Night organization, has no money and owes a performance company $2,100 for last year's New Year's Eve event, according to several sources Thursday.
More than nine months after First Night Oneonta 2007, which is organized by a not-for-profit steering committee, a New Hampshire-based performance company has not been paid in full.
Lynn Bailey, chairwoman of the First Night Steering Committee, confirmed the company has not received the full amount and said the committee has no money to cover it.
Penumbral Productions provided nine Renaissance characters for Oneonta's New Year's Eve Celebration, which was subtitled "Tenth Night" in homage to William Shakespeare and the 10-year anniversary of the alcohol-free event in Oneonta.
The company owned by Dennis Johnson of Portsmouth, N.H., had a contract for $4,200 but was only paid half that amount, Johnson said Thursday.
"I've never done grants before, and somebody told me it takes six to eight months," Bailey said.
Since January, the committee has intended to pay Penumbral Productions the full amount as soon as a $5,000 state grant is received, Bailey said.
But paperwork for that 2006-07 state fiscal year grant has never been received by the state, said Duncan Davie, an aide to state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, who acquired the legislative grant for First Night.
"The designated recipient is the city of Oneonta," Davie said.
These types of grants require that the Department of State receive proof the expense has been made by the recipient before the funds are dispersed, Davie said.
"The paperwork has not been returned to the Department of State as of yet," Davie said.
The city needs to show the expense was made, Davie said.
"It's on someone's desk," Davie said.
Mayor John Nader said it was his understanding the city did not apply for the grant and was not responsible for returning the paperwork.
In the past, Nader said, the city had applied for and received such grants, which were then turned over to the First Night Steering Committee.
But that stopped after First Night Oneonta became a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, he said.
Nader also said the First Night International organization sent him a recent letter indicating there were concerns about the financial solvency of First Night Oneonta.
The letter stated the committee has not paid its annual dues, which allows for the use of the First Night name and other benefits, Nader said.
The annual dues are $350 for a community with fewer than 25,000 people, according to First Night International's website.
City Clerk James Koury, who was the chief organizer for First Night for 91/2 years, yielded to Bailey in June 2006 as planning was under way for the 2007 celebration.
He declined to comment to The Daily Star on Thursday and referred questions to the mayor.
Bailey said that from what she understands, the grant funding is still awaiting dispersal from the state.
"I can't explain it. I've never done grants before," Bailey said.
The Penumbral Productions received an initial check from the steering committee for $2,100 in early February, but after no more money arrived despite assurances from Bailey, Johnson said he was forced to pay the performers out of his own pocket for the difference.
Johnson said he has a very small business, and $2,100 is a lot of money.
Generally, performers follow the "Bob Hope rule" where "you get paid or you don't perform," Johnson said.
"I have never not gotten paid," Johnson said of past experiences.
Johnson forwarded a series of e-mails to The Daily Star documenting his company's attempt at getting reimbursement.
The response from Bailey in several of the e-mails was that the committee was awaiting the state funds.
Bailey said Penumbral Productions is the only act that has not gotten paid for First Night 2007.
"This was the most expensive entertainment," Bailey said.
She said it was frustrating that the First Night Steering Committee can't pay the company.
The committee has no cash on hand and only exists through donations and grants, she said.
Bailey said she doesn't think she can use donations earmarked for First Night 2008 to pay for a debt incurred by First Night 2007.
Even though the state is in a different fiscal year than when the grant was appropriated, there shouldn't be a problem in getting the funds distributed once the paperwork is in order, Davie said.
"Typically, (legislative grants) can get extended without a great deal of trouble," he said.
Both Bailey and Johnson said they have been in contact with David Sullivan, the executive director of First Night International, for assistance.
Johnson City-based First Night International is the umbrella organization for the more than 130 autonomous First Night celebrations in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, according to the group's website.
The telephone number for First Night International was listed as disconnected Thursday, and an e-mail from The Daily Star to Sullivan was not immediately returned.
Plans for First Night 2008 are under way, Bailey said, and the committee has been asked by Nader to incorporate the city's centennial into the events.