The Dizzy concert marked a high point in my collaboration with Mario. After that it became more and more difficult to get his promised donations. However, the real problem between us was not about money but control. In the late fall of 1988, months after the Tri-centennial had ended, Mario volunteered my services to put on another jazz concert for the city. He never discussed the idea with me; he simply told the Pride Committee that I would do it. I explained to him that I wasn’t interested. this event would take place in the summer when I had four free concerts to organize as well as the All-Day Festival. He explained that I had no choice; he was the President of Highland Jazz after all. I replied that I didn’t work for him, that we ran Highland Jazz together and that mine was basically a volunteer position. He became very angry.
Several days later I received a letter from him telling me that I was fired and should deliver all Highland Jazz materials to him as soon as possible. I also learned that he had sent a blind copy of the same letter to the mayor. I was shocked and embarrassed. At a loss for what to do I packed everything up and planned to drop the boxes at his office.
When I told this story to some colleagues at work one of them suggested that perhaps Mario didn’t have the right to fire me.
“What did the Articles of Incorporation or the By-laws say? Bring them in and I’ll show them to my husband, who is an attorney. Let’s see what he thinks after reviewing them.”
I followed her suggestion. Several days later she relayed her husband’s opinion. Mario did not have the right to fire me. Firing a director required a majority vote and since we two were the only directors there was no one to break a tie vote. I arranged to meet with Mario a few days later to discuss why he couldn’t fire me. He refused to explore a compromise. Clearly our relationship was damaged beyond repair.
In the end I found a lawyer who agreed to represent me “pro bono” and I sued to get control of Highland Jazz. I claimed that Mario’s actions had caused irreparable harm to the organization. In the fall of 1989 I won the court case; the judge awarded Highland Jazz to me.
I then rewrote the by-laws; I designated myself as president and added a treasurer and a clerk. This new arrangement would avoid a stalemate in the future. I also formed a Board of Trustees, which included people with various skills: music, marketing, finance, legal etc.
In spite of the legal victory I was very sorry that our collaboration had ended. Mario’s energy and enthusiasm made the most tiresome work a lot of fun. I knew I would miss that. I also wondered how I would be able to continue without his financial support.