Photo by Kim Welsh.

Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Orchestra Reneges on Promise to Pay Back Library Foundation, WWL-TV Reports

Last year, an investigation by WWL-TV discovered that the New Orleans Public Library Foundation (NOPLF) had made $1.03 million in payments to Grammy Award-winning musician Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO). At the time, both organizations were run by Mayfield and his longtime friend and business partner Ronald Markham. (OffBeat publisher and editor-in-chief Jan Ramsey penned a piece on the situation last May, after Markham and Mayfield told OffBeat that we would not be welcome in their Jazz Market, and that Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta would no longer be advertising with us, on account of our coverage of the scandal).

The payments were widely condemned, and the ensuing public outrage, which included a strong condemnation from Mayor Mitch Landrieu, pushed Mayfield and Markham to step down from their positions with the NOPLF. The organization’s entire board was eventually replaced last spring. Additionally, the NOJO board, led by Audubon Institute CEO Ron Forman, agreed to raise funds in order to pay the money in question back to the NOPLF.

Now, WWL-TV’s David Hammer is reporting that the NOJO appears to be backing away from that promise. Evidently, NOJO claims that a third party, which they hired, determined that none of the NOPLF funds were misued.

The full statement from NOJO spokesman Malcolm Ehrhardt reads:

In May 2015, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Board of Directors retained outside counsel to conduct a thorough and independent financial and ethical review regarding questions about its funding and relationships with various organizations. This review found that no funds allocated to the NOJO by these organizations were improperly spent on projects or initiatives for which they were not intended. Likewise, the funds allocated to the NOJO by these organizations were not used to personally benefit NOJO leaders in the form of salaries, bonuses, commissions or additional compensation.

The NOPLF and the NOJO both launched their own internal investigations to determine how much of the library money was misused. The findings have not been released, but the NOPLF’s new president Bob Brown told WWL-TV that he was working on an agreement with the NOJO regarding the amount of money that should be paid back.

The publication also reports that that the federal government is investigating the situation, and that Brown confirmed that the NOPLF recieved subpoenas for records before he became president.

  • Rick OBrien

    It doesn’t matter if it was misused or not. It was borrowed money. It needs to be paid back. This was not a grant.