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D.C. AG Racine Sues Nonprofit at Center of Howard Theatre Revitalization

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has filed a lawsuit against Howard Theatre Restoration Inc. for violating the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act.

The suit, which was announced Thursday, argues that the historic theater’s failure to properly obtain audits endangers the ability to fulfill its charitable purpose of supporting the landmark entertainment venue located in the heart of the Shaw community in Northwest. The suit also alleges one count of failing to act in accordance with HTR’s nonprofit purposes due to its failure to obtain final audits for the past seven fiscal years.

“The Howard Theatre is a vital piece of the District’s cultural heritage,” Racine said in a statement. “We are bringing this suit to ensure that HTR meets its legal obligation to preform regular financial audits in a complete, accurate and transparent manner. This is especially important given District taxpayers’ $12 million investment in the theater’s restoration. Our suit alleges that HTR’s failure to follow the Nonprofit Corporations Act is undermining the Howard’s ability to succeed.”

The District alleges that HTR’s failure to obtain these audits results in a lack of financial accountability and transparency, which hinders HTR’s ability to effectively obtain funding and support the Howard. The suit asks the court to appoint an independent auditor to prepare those audits.

HTR is at the center of a group of nonprofit and for-profit entities related to the District-owned theater’s redevelopment and management. Established in 2007 as a nonprofit organization for the purposes of the restoration, revival, and maintenance of the historic venue. HTR also aims to support and educate the public regarding the performing arts; as well as to educate the public regarding the Howard’s role as a concert hall for African-American performers at a time when most performance venues in Washington were segregated.

Among the artists who have passed through the Howard in its century-plus of existence are Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix.

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