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Editorial - Theatre's woes continue

August 05, 1997

For the second time in a year, the Maryland Theatre has been denied funding by the Washington County Gaming Commission. Patricia Wolford, the theater's president, responded by attacking Sue Tuckwell, who chairs the gaming commission. It's a desperation move that demonstrates how desperately the theater needs new leadership.

Though the gaming commission voted unanimously to deny the theater's request for $130,000 to pay off a loan from Bulldog Credit Union, Wolford singled out Tuckwell for criticism.

Wolford says Tuckwell is being vindictive because the gaming commission chair was the theater's president when its board took out a $250,000 mortgage to dig its way out of debt incurred by a former manager. Tuckwell shares responsibility for decisions that resulted in that debt, Wolford says, and shouldn't deliberate on a request for money needed to pay it off.

Wolford's version of history is a little bit off. It was Tuckwell who discovered the theater manager's unauthorized expenditures, then engineered the rescue. Comparing the performances of Tuckwell, Wolford and their respective boards shows just how far off track things have gotten since then.

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Tuckwell's board secured a mortgage and had the confidence of local government and the banks that underwrote it. Wolford's board had to go to Bulldog Credit Union because it couldn't convince local banks to extend the loan. Tuckwell's board hired a director who was in regular contact with the media. Wolford's board hired Don Wiswell, a local theater professional with a proven track record, then ordered him not to make any public statements!

What the gaming commission wanted to see was the theater's monthly financial statements, which weren't forthcoming, and Bulldog loan documents, which came only after repeated requests. The problem here isn't Tuckwell, but Wolford, and a leadership style that might have served George S. Patton well in war, but which is counter-productive for anyone trying to attract volunteers or raise money. It's time for local government to step in before any more damage is done.

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