The Multifest celebration has in 22 years become a summer tradition in Charleston. Unfortunately, the embezzlement by the founder's wife of $306,872 over a six-year period has placed the event's future in doubt.
That is a lot of money to steal from a festival with an annual budget of about $100,000.
The departure of founder Stephen Starks from the festival is only one step in restoring public confidence in the management of the festival.
Changes must be made in its board of directors, which failed to provide proper financial oversight over Deborah Starks, its treasurer.
Having the Rev. Roy Terry succeed Stephen Starks as board president may not be enough to restore public confidence in Multifest.
Convincing the public that this is a real change will take some doing. Terry promised to restructure the board to ensure there will not be a repeat embezzlement. Financial officers will be bonded and the organization will hire an outside agency to conduct an independent audit each year, Terry said.
Audits are costly. Bonding may not be realistic.
The Rev. Matthew Watts is not convinced the changes go far enough.
"The public's trust in the board's leadership ability has come into question, and I do not see how it can be restored," Watts said.
Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper and Mayor Danny Jones also are skeptical. About 35 percent of the festival's budget comes from government sources.
"You can't just move the board's chairs around a little bit," Carper said. "There has to be complete proof that there is real change."
That will come only with replacement of some board members and an infusion of more skeptical blood.
Multifest is highly valued, but it needs a board of directors that provides proper oversight of finances. The city and county should insist on replacement of some board members with more people who will do the math.