Santa Barbara civic crusader Ernie Salomon has filed a complaint with the California Attorney General’s Office against the Bellosguardo Foundation, claiming that after four years of “mismanagement” the nonprofit has failed to make any appreciable headway in fulfilling its mission to open the late Huguette Clarke’s 24-acre estate to the public. “Since the official takeover by the foundation, nothing has been done by the board to further Ms. Clark’s wishes,” Salomon says in his complaint.
In an interview, Salomon conceded it will take considerable time and investment to make the property publically accessible. “It doesn’t have to be tomorrow,” he said. “But the board has got to give the public some kind of indication what their plans are.” As a government-sanctioned nonprofit, Salomon added, the Bellosguardo Foundation ought to be completely transparent — right now, it’s far from it. The organization funnels all questions to its president, Jeremy Lindaman, who has repeatedly refused requests for an interview, including for this story. Last March, Lindaman, in his only public statement on the future of the estate, said, “An appropriate press event will be conducted in the near future to provide more information.” No event has been announced. Shortly before, the foundation was set to receive $4.5 million in cash as part of the final transfer of Clark’s assets. Lindaman, who has received more than $300,000 in salary since he was appointed in 2014, would also not speak to the transfer. On its website, the foundation offers some insight into its vision for the property: “Be it coming up to enjoy a family picnic by the rose garden, delve into the estate’s history, view art from institutions around the world, or take in a jazz recital on the lawn, Bellosguardo will become a new home for art, music, history, and culture on the California coast.”
On another legal front, Santa Barbara artist John De Herrera has filed a writ of mandate against Lindaman, board chair Dick Wolf, and the rest of the Bellosguardo Foundation leadership. The legal petition is meant to compel the nonprofit to fulfill its mission of opening the property as a public venue. Judge Thomas Anderle is expected to rule on the writ in the coming weeks.