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Jenni Rebecca Stephenson and Fresh Arts Reach Settlement

Legally speaking, the saga between former Fresh Arts executive director Jenni Rebecca Stephenson and Fresh Arts appears to be over, according to a statement sent to the Houston Press by attorney Jared G. LeBlanc.

Fresh Arts and Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, the former Executive Director of Fresh Arts, jointly announce that they have amicably resolved their differences and that Ms. Stephenson will be dismissing her lawsuit. Fresh Arts thanks Ms. Stephenson for her 7-years of dedicated service and for successfully leading the organization through the merger of Spacetaker and Fresh Arts Coalition in 2012, and then through her departure last year. Ms. Stephenson said, “I wish nothing but the best for Fresh Arts and its mission to serve Houston artists now and in the future.” All parties are pleased to put this behind them, and they will all move forward to continue building Houston’s vibrant arts community. 

On February 15, Stephenson filed a lawsuit in Harris County District Court, 129th Judicial District, against Fresh Arts and Fresh Arts’ board president, Harry McMahan. According to the defamation suit, Stephenson alleged that McMahan and his attorney, Scott McLaughlin, “devised a scheme” to oust her from the nonprofit arts organization. Stephenson, in court documents, claimed that McMahan told the Fresh Arts board that she was stealing funds from the organization.

Two days after the lawsuit was filed, Fresh Arts responded to Stephenson’s claims, saying, in part, “Many employers face groundless claims brought by former employees. Fresh Arts is not immune. Yesterday, our own former Executive Director, Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, sued Fresh Arts, one of our board members — and even our bank. It is disheartening that Ms. Stephenson would make such a baseless attack on an organization that she professes to love.”

Stephenson wouldn’t comment about the settlement when reached by cell phone.

The Press called Fresh Arts and spoke briefly to Manager of Marketing Ariel Jones, who said, “I have no idea about [the settlement].” Jones refused to let us speak with new executive director Marci Regan Dallas. “She’ll call you back shortly,” Jones told us. She didn’t, and when we called back, somebody hung up the line.

As of the time this post was published, the settlement terms were unknown.
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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen