By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Salvation Army and Street Art Fair officials were frustrated this year when the bell ringers wanted their traditional clock tower spot and organizers wanted them to follow established rules.
The conflict between the two entities at the Street Art Fair, which ran July 13 to 16, became the point of a contentious exchange at the July 18 City Council meeting between Councilman Daniel Galeski, who chairs the participation for the Salvation Army, and City Treasurer Todd Browning, who interceded at the request of fair officials.
Galeski said the two Salvation Army bell ringers, his brother Theodore Galeski, and retired police Sgt. John Budyson, were following 40 years of tradition by collecting donations for the group’s philanthropic work at the clock tower. He said the group had signed “hold harmless” agreements for the city in the past, but had never registered as a non-profit nor paid an additional fee.
Browning spoke to the Salvation Army fundraisers on behalf of event coordinators, who were uncomfortable with approaching Budyson and Theodore Galeski after previous attempts to get them to comply with event rules were met with resistance.
Daniel Galeski said Browning had no authority to approach Budyson or his brother, while Browning contends he did so on event officials’ behalf.
Galeski said at one time the Salvation Army’s participation was an automatic referral, and they participated annually, relying on fair donations to fund a significant portion of its charitable work.
Browning said that last year there were complaints that the bell ringers would not move to the designated non-profit area when asked to do so.
“The other non-profit organizations are required to fill out an application, and pay the fee,” Browning said. “However, I saw the same thing transpire this year with the bell ringers. The special events coordinator said, ‘Can you ask them to move? Can you ask them if they filled out an application?’”
Browning said special events coordinator Heather Thiede said the Salvation Army people had not filled out an application.
Browning said he offered the bell ringers a map and asked them to move to the non-profit area at First and Elm.
Galeski said the Salvation Army has a 20-year tradition of collecting donations at the clock tower. He also reiterated his assertion that Browning was acting without authority when he approached the bell ringers. He mentioned the numerous charitable works that the Salvation Army is involved with for the city, which they fund through donations collected from the public, often at events like this.
“We help anyone we can, and all of a sudden we are being harassed,” Galeski said.
Browning said he hadn’t been to an event before where the Salvation Army did not follow the rules and created turmoil.
“I would be surprised if the commander of the Salvation Army would allow this to go on,” Browning said to Galeski at the council meeting.
In response to an inquiry, Thiede said in an email that on the afternoon of July 14, the second day of the fair, the Salvation Army was collecting donations at the clock tower without having filled out a fair application and did not have permission to collect in the fair area.
She said an attempt by a special events staff person was unsuccessful in getting the bell ringers, to acknowledge the rules that other non-profits were required to follow.
Theide said Browning was asked to approach the two in an attempt to get them to comply with the rules. She said at that point, one of the Salvation Army members approached the fair information booth, then commented about the two staff members and the need for them to be “slapped some sense into.”
Theide said as special events coordinator, she approached the Salvation Army volunteer and asked if he would move if her staff received complaints about the bell noise. She said she gave the bell ringers an opportunity to move to another part of the fair, including the non-profit area, even though they were not registered like other groups.
She said although comments were made by a Salvation Army member, he was receptive to the request, took a copy of the rules from Browning and left the fair area.
Theide said any non-profit group that wished to participate in future city events needs to contact her office at 734-324-7283, or go to wyandotte.net or wyandottestreetartfair.org.
She said she hopes the Salvation Army and other eligible groups contact the special events office and register for future events.
“With any event that involves so many participants there are ups and downs,” she said, “but the majority of the happenings at the fair this year were very positive. The 2016 Wyandotte Street Art Fair was a wonderful time and we hope to have a great year in 2017 as well.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)