Corruption Charge for Upstate Theater


Investigator says nonprofit exec steered $700K to family members

The longtime artistic director of a nonprofit upstate theater company is being accused of corruption, mismanagement and funneling to family members more than $700,000 in financial contributions.

In a blistering report released last week, Inspector General Joseph Fisch accused Patricia Snyder, of the New York State Theatre Institute (NYSTI), of using state money to enrich the lives of herself, her husband and her children, while board members of the Troy, N.Y.-based organization either turned a blind eye to the activities or claimed to be unaware of them. Inspector Fisch also accused Snyder of repeatedly casting her family members in the theater’s productions, as well as giving them directing and tech jobs. Additionally, the report outlines nearly $500,000 in  improper perks, including a Manhattan apartment that was leased by the institute but used mainly for trips into the city by Snyder and her family.

“This is an outrageous misappropriation of funds,” Finch said in a statement. “A public authority is not a family business, not a family employment agency.” In response to the report, the institute’s board released a detailed letter, which was sent to Fisch’s office and posted on the theater’s website. While the letter says the board can’t comment on specific transactions referenced in the report, it is quick to come to Snyder’s defense, saying the board is indebted to the artistic director “whose vision and talents have made NYSTI such a great artistic success.”

Snyder, who has hired the prominent lawyer E. Stewart Jones to defend her case, reportedly told investigators she was unaware that nepotism is against the law. “The arts community will be up in arms with this line of questioning. We are talking about artists,” she said. “Art is not like running an OGS office.” The institute was created in 1974, as a state theater, and currently receives significantly more state aid than any other arts group in New York. In light of the investigation, Gov. David Paterson has proposed eliminating the institute’s funding; however, that proposal that must still be approved by the legislature.

Originally published in Show Business magazine, April 2010

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