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Citi Center defends spending

The Citi Performing Arts Center, responding to criticism of its spending practices and the decision to cut back its free Shakespeare run on Boston Common, yesterday sent a more than 1,200-word letter from its board to supporters, donors, and media members defending its practices.

The letter, responding to a series of recent Globe reports and signed by chairman John William Poduska Sr., stated a $1.2 million "retention" bonus was committed to president and chief executive Josiah Spaulding Jr. in 2001 to "assure that the then Wang Center would be optimally positioned to face significant challenges for an additional five years." In addition, Poduska criticized the Globe for how it reported on the bonus.

"Simply put, it was misleading to link the bonus payment, which fulfilled a contractual commitment made six years ago, to recent program decisions in connection with the center's annual operating budget," Poduska wrote.

The Citi Center sent the letter, by e-mail and standard mail, to about 15,000 supporters, members, and donors. Weber Shandwick, an international public relations firm hired last week to help with communications work, also circulated the letter to the media.

In addition, Poduska defended the center's ethical behavior. In the Globe reports, charity specialists raised questions about the Citi Center's decision to install Spaulding's wife as its website manager and to employ companies either owned or managed by some of the group's trustees.

Such practices are "entirely ethical and hardly unusual," Poduska wrote. "Nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies often seek board members who can provide value both in terms of leadership and specific professional expertise."

Finally, Poduska voiced support for Spaulding as the center works to put in place a five-year strategic plan, which includes an effort to merge and partner with other organizations and do more business online.

"All of us who have had the honor to work with Joe enthusiastically believe in the integrity, energy, and drive that characterize his visionary leadership," said Poduska. "We have absolutely no doubt that he is the right leader to revitalize the center at this time."

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com. For more on the arts, visit boston.com/ ae/theater_arts/exhibitionist.

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