If you see Demetric Mercadel or Michael Bagneris at Jazz Fest this year, you might want to greet them with an “Oink”.
They have succeeded, at least for now, in blocking a rule change by which they claimed they would be “irreparably harmed”. The terrible threat they faced was having to pay their own way, just like you and me.
Mercadel and Bagneris, as past presidents of the Jazz Fest Foundation, were each treated to a lifetime of gifts worth several thousand dollars a year.
It’s now up to the courts to decide whether to spit in the public eye by making permanent an injunction that compels the Foundation’s board of directors to continue giving each former president 70 free entrance tickets and 100 free entrance tickets. half-price admission every year. The daily admission price at the door this year is $90. The privileged few also enjoy free parking and watch the performers from backstage on the big stages.
It’s hard to imagine a US court perpetuating such a scam. It’s also hard to see why the Foundation’s board felt justified in leaving these costly privileges in place until the current board, led by David Francis, took over.
Presidents are limited to two years each after being elevated from another leadership position, so there’s no shortage of Jazz Fest profiteers. The Foundation board members were all aware of the delights to follow if they headed to the top, so it’s possible that the elections involved an element of self-interest.
Previously, it was claimed that past presidents could still be useful, as they automatically joined a “senate” that was labeled “advisory,” which usually means “superfluous.” Indeed, the senate was abolished several years ago with no discernible effect on the operations of the festival.
Bagneris became president of the fest foundation in 2000, so the rule change will mean quite a heartbreak for him after two decades of living on free pork. Mercadel took over the presidency in 2014.
Bagneris’ costume is identical in its requirements to that of Mercadel, according to the response of the foundation board. Mercadel’s lawsuit argues the case involves a “private and sensitive matter” that deserves to be “protected from public scrutiny.”
The public is not likely to agree. The festival foundation may not be a government agency, but it is, as a non-profit organization, tax-exempt and dependent on what fans pay to attend the festival. He also solicits donations on his website, so it’s high time we got to know his prodigal old ways.
If Mercadel and Bagneris hadn’t been greedy and brazen enough to press charges, we would still be in the dark.
Judges never seem slow with a sealing order. In this case, Mercadel and Bagneris got their way, and the audience got the finger, from their honors Nicole Sheppard and Omar Mason respectively.
Bagneris was himself a judge in the civil court, so he must have known that the truth would come out sooner or later. Perhaps he was surprised that the foundation put everything we need to know into the public record so quickly, but sealing the relevant parts of the record was always going to prove futile. In the end, it only put Mercadel and Bagneris in a worse odor.
Email James Gill at email@example.com.