Kristina Dodge, who along with her husband, Larry, pledged $5 million to the Kansas City Art Institute in 2005, has responded to a recent article by Bottom Line Communications that highlighted the actions of the KCAI, which is currently suing the couple for non-payment of its pledge.
The Dodges, who have donated literally millions of dollars to a variety of causes over the years, found themselves suffering severe financial issues during the current recession. They paid $1 million of the donation and–according to Mrs. Dodge—wanted to restructure the pledge until KCAI lawyers “manhandled us.”
She says she does not consider this a political issue. ”It is a human issue,” she says.
Below is her comment sent to Bottom Line Communications highlighting her side of the story:
My name is Kristina Dodge (I’m the woman written about in the article) and I’d like to clear the air on a few things. Like always, I’ll be honest, forthright and truthful.
People have asked me how I feel about the articles coming out through various outlets. The short truth is: I feel so-so. I’m glad that the story is getting some attention. At the same time, I feel like the article leaves out certain pieces that I wish had been covered.
Here are a few points I’d like to clarify.
1. We signed a pledge. That is a fact. But we also didn’t try to back out of that pledge. We told KCAI that we needed to restructure it. Until the lawsuit, the endless motions and the slick way KCAI lawyers have manhandled us, we had every intention of fulfilling our obligation. This tumult has been caused by the hyper-aggressive stance that KCAI took from the get-go. That’s just not how you treat a family who gave you a million dollars. The lack of compassion is mind-numbing.
2. We don’t care if our name is on the building. We don’t need that sort of attention and didn’t ever ask for it. KCAI is using the fact that they put our name on the wall as a piece of showmanship. We invite them to take our name off the wall, melt down the scrap metal and sell it.
3. We did not back out of the donation because we got cold feet or wanted to buy a house in the Caymans. The banking crisis was a cataclysmic event. Hundreds of banks requested bailouts from the federal government—an unprecedented move. But we didn’t. My husband, Larry, still believes in the strength of the loans he made as the CEO of American Sterling—he would happily take the bank back. Still, the idea that KCAI could be so callous in the midst of a global economic meltdown is patently absurd. It’s odd to me that an institute dedicated to the arts (which aim to offer people a more nuanced understanding of the world in which we live) seems primarily focused on limiting this discussion to being either black or white. There are shades of grey. The fact that KCAI wants to ignore the complexity of the situation is sad.
4. KCAI has been aggressive in ways that don’t befit a charitable organization. In the coming days, I will be putting video of my KCAI legal-deposition online. The KCAI lawyers were ferocious and rude. I was asked if I “knew what the word job meant,” and if I “understand English.” The lawyer scoffed when he heard that my triplets have diapers. He demanded to know why some of that diaper money didn’t go to paying off KCAI. Seriously.
5. KCAI lawyers told us that they wouldn’t file for a default judgment. Then they did. Our appeal will look at the legality of this maneuver. Either way, it certainly isn’t ethical.
There is no hidden money. We aren’t secretly still rich. There isn’t a nickel under our floorboards (trust me, I checked). We have a house but the house has a lien against it that is bigger than the estimated sale price. My husband invested everything in his businesses. All our assets are tied to American Sterling. I hate to lay my life bare, but the fact is, we are currently on food stamps. We don’t have health coverage (aside from my husband’s Medicaid).
6. My husband and I don’t consider this a political issue. It is a human issue. KCAI is acting in a way that does not respect the human dignity of a family who, to-date, has given them a million dollars.
On a final point, I have been touched by the support many of the commenters have had for my family and I. We are in the midst of a trying time and have drawn strength from a wide range of places. The kindness shown by readers, their ability to share our outrage and see our point of view has buoyed my spirits.
If you agree with us on this matter, please take two minutes to email the office of the KCAI president (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell her that: “though KCAI is acting within legal boundaries, their behavior is mean-spirited and lacks the sort of compassion we would hope they would help foster in their students.”
Thank you for your interest in this story. Whether you side with Larry and I or with KCAI, please know this: we are regular people, doing our very best to support our family and live happy lives. When we had resources, we were notoriously generous with them. We have made every effort to handle this in an honest, accountable, forthright manner.
All my best,