As we reported back in October, the tenants at Commerce Street Artists’ Warehouse are in a real pickle. After allegedly violating a slew of CSAW tenant bylaws, property manager Maggi Battalino was ousted from her post as CEO/President by CSAW board members in a November 25 vote. The decision coincided with troubling questions on the part of CSAW board members about the CSAW bank account; thousands of dollars that they thought were supposed to be there had been removed with no explanation, according to one board member. Battalino has repeatedly refused to make the building’s financial records available to tenants.
The very next day after Battalino’s ousting, tenants received legal notices on their door from her attorney, Franklin Holcomb, which stated the following:
“Commerce Street Art Warehouse, a nonprofit Texas corporation organized in 1994, forfeited its legal existence on February 18, 1998 for nonpayment of taxes…No actions taken in the name of that entity have any legal standing. The letter delivered to Ms. Battalino today notifying her of having been removed as a CSAW officer has no legal effect whatsoever.”
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The letter also stated that Battalino had the full support of the family that owns the building. Further, it directed tenants to make their rent checks payable to Commerce Street Artists Management Fund, LLC.
Several artists (reportedly Michael Henderson, Kathy Kelley, Whitney Riley, Garland Fielder, Teresa O’Connor, Masumi Kataoka, Howard Sherman, Elaine Bradford, Young Min Kang, Dale Stewart, Nick Meriwether, Cory Wagner and Shane Tolbert) refused to pay the new entity, paying their December rent to CSAW just as they had in the past. Not an act of defiance, but rather an attempt to maintain their original lease, the plan backfired. Those artists have all received notices to vacate the building in 30 days.
“It would be a change of our lease to have us write our checks to some other entity,” said longtime tenant Dale Stewart. “We were just trying to be as safe as possible and do what would support us in the best way legally. It hinged upon the owners taking our side, and we felt pretty certain that they would because of the nature of the situation and all the evidence we had of [Battalino’s] wrongdoing. We empowered her to an extent, and she took her position and set about doing all sorts of things that were counter to our interests. Morally, she’s really done a bad thing. We took a stand when we voted her out.”
While some are happy to pack up and be free of Battalino for good, others have decided to put up a fight. – Troy Schulze