Written by: Jeremy Baumhower
According to the Perrysburg Heights Community Association’s website the following is what they do: “First, we are here for the kids. We are here to help them with homework after school, to provide a safe place for them to play, to provide them with healthy meals, books to read, friends to be with, and most of all, with responsible adults who they can look up to.”
I find the phrase “responsible adults” as loosely used as two words could ever be. Especially after everything that went down with this past weekend’s OG BBQ Fest.
About a month ago I heard of this tremendous concert that was coming to Perrysburg. The news stated it would feature three legendary hip hop performers– Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Naughty By Nature and Coolio. Being a teen during the early 90s and a fan of Yo! MTV Raps.. this festival seemed like an event I wanted to attend. I wanted to get down with OPP.
A few weeks later I read an article by the BG Sentinel which featured quotes from Organizer Jason Craig promising 10,000 plus people attending and a nervous Perrysburg Deputy Police Chief Jim Rose.
Then last week my phone rang.
It was 8 AM, this past Wednesday and the call was from an old friend who had grave concerns about the OG Fest. The 30 minute conversation featured words like “never-booked”, “not coming”, “fraud” and many other negative terms. It didn’t take much investigating to find out that a big scam was happening in Perrysburg and very few people had known anything about it.
I had learned that a promoter by the name of Tim Corser was in charge of booking the bands for the OG BBQ Festival. Mr. Corser who recently plead guilty to two felony counts of fraud with a concert that happened in Jackson County, Michigan. I’d learned Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Naughty By Nature were not coming, with Naughty By Nature never being contacted by any promoter associated. The promoters had known this for months and were even claiming to be a victim of fraud, which now bleeds with Irony.
After doing numerous interviews with various people involved with the planning, I was able to talk with PHCA Organizer Jason Craig. He confirmed everything I was told, placed blame a million different ways, informed me of many other bad things I had not heard, and in the end it was I who was begging him to pull the plug.
“Why would a nonprofit community center risk everything and go in business with a recent felon… for an event you already know is doomed?” I asked while pleading with him to cancel the concert. Mr Craig gave no real answer other than the OG BBQ Festival was not going to be canceled and the show would still go on. Later that night he was on Channel 11 WTOL getting teary-eyed and promising people refunds even if it had to come from his own pockets.
I will not give you the minute-by-minute drama that proceeded the following days and nights because it is too unbelievable and unless you have a powerpoint.. nearly impossible to follow.
The concert lineup had changed so frequently you had zero reason to believe that any artist was coming.
Saturday’s heavily scrutinized OG BBQ Festival featured only hundreds of concert goers, almost more people performing than watching, an incredible police presence inside the venue and out, a power outage that effected three of the four stages and an ambulance ride for Organizer Jason Craig.
The day was so mismanaged by promoters that it was eventually shut down by the Perrysburg Township Police for running long and violating the music curfew. The plug was pulled even before the last-second replacement headliner Layzie Bone could perform.
In the end there was no Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, no Naughty By Nature, no Coolio, no J-Kwon, no Bushwick Bill, no Do or Die and the list could go on and on and on.
Yesterday morning Jason Craig broke his silence with a diatribe of what happened. Mr. Craig placed blame on everyone from the performers, their handlers, fellow OG Fest Promoter Tim Corser to event sponsor Revolver. Jason started one Facebook post with “I wanted and(sic) epic event for the center and Perrysburg.” and then after stating there would be no refunds wrote “The expenses outweigh the income in ways you cannot imagine.”
According to Anita Sanchez-Serda, former board member and one of the co-founders of the PHCA, while speaking about this Mexican-American Festival, the event was profitable until last year… “Of the 19 year’s previous to 2013(when Jason Craig took over) – the festival always made a profit. It started out small and then grew each year with an annual budget of $30,000 of which we (the board) raised $13,000-$15,000 in sponsorships. When we began to bring in National Tejano acts we brought in $50,000-$73,000; profiting one year as much as $41,000!” She also said “Prior to 2012 when Jason joined the board, he would personally profit from our fundraiser by securing the parking lot of the former DC Ranch and vacant lots in the heights and charge people for parking and pocket that money.”
This was the second year that Jason Craig organized this festival and the second year that it ended mired with controversy. In 2013 Mr. Craig claimed that the festival was sabotaged by former members of the board.
The bigger issue here isn’t the festival but rather the organization, it’s board and current Director of Operations. The PHCA was created to give a poorer Perrysburg Township neighborhood, with a 60% Latino population– a community center and meeting place.
When asked for comment about the current state of the PHCA, Ms. Serda gave the following statement– “I believe this organization once provided a unique structure of assistance to the community, and without it the youth won’t have near the support to they had to succeed. The #1 rule at the center was respect and the kids felt like someone cared about them, but no longer. Clearly the current board does not respect this neighborhood as a whole. “One Family ~ One Community” has been divided by the current board this past year. You have to have passion to do community work and even when you’re faced with struggles to achieve the mission – you still have to try, because making the difference for just one person has more value than money. Empowering youth, women and community was so important to me, but if PHCA loses its 501c3 status, the quality of life will suffer.”
Did you know that event organizer Jason Craig is also the Director of Operations, a member of the board AND treasurer for the PHCA? As Director, Mr. Craig is responsible for negotiating all deals with hall rental, programming costs and is the person responsible for handling 100% of the money?
Did you know that PHCA rents the building that houses the community center from Perrysburg Township for a couple of dollars per year? A few years back, PHCA and Perrysburg Township entered a 99 year contract where the Township owns the building and the organization rents it for a sum of $1 per year. This arrangement was made to make sure the PHCA kept and executed it’s original mission statement and vision to help the neighborhood for which it served.
Jason Craig in his short tenure with the PHCA– has put in jeopardy the lease of community center with Perrysburg Township and potentially even it’s 501c3 status. He has risked the community center’s future for events that primarily take-in cash with no checks and balances in place.
He organizes, plans, negotiates the deals, collects and counts all the cash with everything that happens in that building. There is no accountability, no system in place and very little paperwork. According to Ms Serda.. “Jason Craig claims he works 50 hours per week and doesn’t receive a paycheck.”
If Mr Craig isn’t compensated for working at the PHCA, how does he make a living? How does he make any money? He has told numerous people at the Center that he “won the lottery”, but we nor the Ohio Attorney General can confirm his win.
I am incredibly worried about the future of this organization and the neighborhood it serves. As of now, it seems to only serve one person… and he is not even Latino. It appears that Mr. Craig has in deed won the lottery, we just have no idea what the payout is or will be.
The time is now to Save the PHCA, remove Jason Craig and launch a thorough investigation over the events that have taken place during the last two years.