Funding for NHF doesn’t come from city, chamber

Published 4:25 pm Monday, April 10, 2017

NEDERLAND — For one week every March in Nederland, a portion of Boston Avenue is filled with families, carnival rides, food booths and games during the Nederland Heritage Festival.

The festival, which began in 1973 as the city celebrated its 75th birthday, is a nonprofit organization with its own board of directors and its own foundation to oversee profits. The foundation, in turn, uses the profits to benefit the community, donating money to the police and fire departments, city parks, the city library and other entities.

Recently, allegations of a theft of funds from the NHF over a year ago have resurfaced and with them, rumors that the city of Nederland or the Chamber of Commerce are somehow involved.

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They are not.

The NHF and its foundation are not part of the city or the chamber of commerce unlike other festivals. For instance, in Groves, the Groves Pecan Festival is overseen by Groves Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau while in Port Neches, the Port Neches RiverFest is overseen by the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Duque, Nederland city manager, said the city does not provide hotel/motel tax funds to the NHF.

Some of the HOT money goes to support the chamber of commerce for tourism as well as the historical society.

“It does not go to the festival,” Duque said.

The city does work with the festival by allowing them a venue for the event, security and trash pick-up.

“What we do provide is support services to that event through our police department. They, of course, are there to provide security. That service basically means you have to have more officers on overtime to ensure the event is held safely,” he said. “And then we also provide public waste services, picking up the trash every morning. Prisoners are used to pick up trash. This is the city supporting a community event.”

The city has an agreement with the federal prison and prisoners pick up trash the week of the festival to keep the grounds clean. This is a service the city provides via the prisoner work crew to support the festival activities.

This year, some of the funding from the festival went to repair some brick pavers on Boston Avenue, he said.

Diana LaBorde, executive director of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce, said they received HOT funds from the city quarterly, which is strictly for tourism and to run the museums in the city.

The chamber does have a booth during the festival and pays for its own concessions like other nonprofit groups out there. The chamber also buys an ad in the NHF program booklet every year.

The NHF and its foundation have been in headlines lately over allegations of misuse of funds that was allegedly dealt with last year through an internal investigation. Reportedly, the NHF Foundation Board protested its organization by seeking the return of funds in exchange for no criminal proceedings.

LaBorde said it is her opinion that the foundation was taking care of its organization in its decision not to go to the district attorney with the issue.

“I can only assume they were weighing the best outcome for the situation and that’s the route they went,” LaBorde said. “I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here. I have heard people say, ‘if I had robbed a bank, then gave the money back,..’ Those are two different things.”

Jim Wimberly, attorney for the organization, said there was an internal investigation by “very qualified individuals” and that “determined funds were returned to the NHF accounts to the full satisfaction of the board and their counsel, which result satisfied the primary obligation of the board, as a governing board for a charitable institution — namely to recover lost funds.”