FAMOUS VOICES Vocal Group Hall isn't faltering, president says

Businessman Jim Winner said he's suggesting ways to improve operations.
SHARON, Pa. -- Jim Winner's assertion that the Vocal Group Hall of Fame is at a virtual standstill isn't correct, according to the president and chief executive officer of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation.
Bob Crosby said the hall is moving forward on a plan to secure state funding to finance ongoing operations and induction programs over the next couple years.
Progress is also being made on creating various media products such as CDs and DVDs of past induction concerts to provide long-term financial security for the hall, he said.
Winner, who put up about $2 million to open the hall in December 1997 in partnership with Tony Butala of The Lettermen singing trio, backed away from the project in late 2001, saying he could no longer subsidize the operation. He said he'd been putting $25,000 a month into the hall just to keep it open.
He agreed to lease the hall to Butala if he wanted to proceed on his own.
Butala took up the offer and brought in Crosby to run the operation.
It's no secret the hall has had financial problems. It carries a debt that has reached $200,000 at times and was unable to come up with the estimated $250,000 necessary to put on an induction program and concert this fall for its Class of 2004 inductees.
What Winner said
Winner has been suggesting for the past week that Butala, chairman and founder of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation, step aside and let someone else try to save the hall.
Winner said the Penn Sate Shenango campus might be interested and said he spoke with Dr. Thomas Rookey, campus executive officer, about that idea and that Rookey expressed some interest.
Rookey told The Vindicator that the discussion with Winner lasted about one minute and it was an idea Winner had to make the hall more successful by creating a community board of directors to run it.
Rookey said Penn State would be willing to help with the management but has no money to spend on such a project and isn't looking to be a partner in any operation.
The campus would do what it could to help with any revitalization project, Rookey said, adding that there have been no further discussions on the issue.
Butala, in response to Winner's suggestion, said he didn't want or need Winner's "Monday morning quarterbacking," pointing out that Winner gave up all rights and involvement in the hall when he closed it in November 2001.
Money matters
Winner said Tuesday that he has no desire to run the hall but charged the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation has failed to keep its word and legal commitments to him, has failed to pay a number of businesses for expenses incurred during the past two year's induction concerts and is creating no value to the community today.
His suggestion for a change in management was only to offer an alternative to the "the present dismal situation," he said.
Winner further charged that $10,000 loans made by him and another businessman to assist with financing an induction concert two years ago haven't been repaid.
Butala was drafting a reply to the latest claims by Winner and hadn't released a formal statement as of early today.
Crosby said the only money owed to Winner is the 2004 property taxes on the hall buildings and that payment isn't due yet.
Atty. Ron Amrhein, representing the hall, said Winner has no legal standing with the hall other than as landlord.
Amrhein also denied that the hall is at a standstill. Things aren't moving as quickly as might be desired, but the hall is on the verge of securing state aid and media product deals, he said.

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