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I think it's quite common for many folks to assume that it's the Exec or CEO at a nonprofit who calls the shots. But what happens when the board, a nonprofit's legal owner, calls the shots?

In the case of the Clearwater, Pete Seeger's nonprofit environmental organization, the CEO stepped down citing his own disagreement with the direction the board had decided to take. The board decided that renovating their ship, the source of mission, was more critical than spending money on their annual music festival. While both "vehicles" serve as a source of mission, the ship is critical to mission and must be maintained. The CEO, as the following USA Today article describes, had a different take on what should be a priority. Kudos to the board though for a) making a decision and b) accepting the consequences. On the other hand, once the board set the path around the sloop, isn't the how this would be paid for the job of the CEO? Might deciding that the concert is a no-go be micromanaging and in-turn, usurping the authority of the CEO?
Decision to cancel annual Croton Point fest, focus on repairs to flagship sloop, caused division in Hudson River group

The director of the Hudson River environmental group Clearwater has resigned in the midst of an internal rift over last week's decision to cancel the group's long-running annual music festival at Croton Point Park.

Peter Gross of South Salem, who served as Clearwater's executive director since 2014, said in a statement released by the group Wednesday that he was stepping down over "significant differences between his and the organization's vision to the path to building a stronger future for Clearwater, and dealing with the organization's longstanding financial and structural challenges."

The announcement comes a week after the board of directors of the Beacon-based environmental group voted to cancel the 2016 Great Hudson River Revival so it could devote limited financial resources to restoring it's flagship, the sloop Clearwater.

The boat, a replica of the sloops that sailed the Hudson River in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, is undergoing $850,000 in needed renovations.

In an announcement last week, the Clearwater board said that, due to cash shortages, it had to choose between the sloop and the annual festival, which has been held since 1979. It has been held at the Westchester County-owned Croton park every year since 1999.

The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, flagship of the environmental group by the same name, is undergoing $850,000 in repairs. The cost led to the cancellation of the group's annual music festival and has now prompted the resignation of its executive director. (Photo: File photo/The Poughkeepsie Journal)

The sloop was launched in 1969 by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, who founded the group on a mission to raise awareness of the plight of the Hudson River, which had been plagued by decades of pollution from waterfront manufacturing plants.

But Anne Osborn, president of the Clearwater board of directors, said Wednesday that there was still disagreement within the group after the decision was made to focus on repairs to the sloop. Gross and others, she said, felt Clearwater could repair the boat, yet still host the festival.

“I think it’s what it says: Significant differences between his and the organization’s vision of the path to a stronger future," Osborn said. "One vision, his vision, is we can have a festival and use that income stream. The other was it is way too risky. Focus on floating the boat. So we did.”

Related: Pete Seeger, activist & folk singer, dies at 94

Osborn said about 75 percent of the repairs to the flagship sloop are being reimbursed by the state. But she said it was uncertain if the reimbursements would come in time to stage the two-day summer festival.

The group says the event has averaged about $162,000 a year in net income over the past six years, but only $31,000 last year.
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Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival, held annually at Croton Point Park, was canceled this year amid a budget crunch at the environmental group Clearwater. The group's executive director has now resigned in an internal rift over the cancellation of the festival. (Photo: File photo by Peter Carr/The Journal News)

Clearwater officials said they plan to move forward with the 2017 festival, and that a series of local music shows will replace the larger event throughout the year. Those events will help raise money for the group. For instance, a show in Ulster County last weekend raised $12,000, Osborn said.

“I think it’s hard to be an effective leader when your troops are marching in the other direction," she said. "(Gross) would’ve loved in his heart of hearts to have put the festival on. He would’ve liked to have done both, and perhaps the income stream from early tickets sales would’ve been really helpful in getting the boat restored. But the folks who do the festival felt differently.”

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