Friday, October 2, 2009

Mineral rights a headache for Santa Fe Opera

Protests erupt over SFO decision on oil and gas leases

"A donation of mineral rights to The Santa Fe Opera is causing a big headache for general director Charles MacKay and prompting the nonprofit's board to rethink such gifts in the future.

Meanwhile, no one quite knows what happened to rights given by the same donor's estate to the College of Santa Fe. They weren't included in the city of Santa Fe's recent deal to purchase the defunct institution's buildings and art.

When news broke last week that the opera had agreed to lease the mineral rights, located in Mora and San Miguel counties, for oil and gas drilling, all hell broke loose.

The anti-drilling group Drilling Santa Fe is calling for people to boycott the opera, and MacKay said he had received some angry letters and phone calls from people who think he shouldn't have signed the lease. "This whole brouhaha has had us relook at our gift policy as it relates to mineral rights," he said.

MacKay said the opera is obligated to meet donor directions on gifts — in this case, making money off the mineral rights to support the $1.5-million-a-year apprentice program.

Paula Garcia, chairman of the Mora Land Grant Reorganizing Committee and director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, said the opera needed to look beyond its fiduciary responsibility to the common good.

"In not considering the potentially negative effects on Mora and San Miguel county, they didn't take their stewardship responsibilities seriously," she said. "I think they've put our communities in a really bad position."' (More>>>>)

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