Attorney General Racine Sues Nonprofit at Center of Howard Theatre Revitalization for Violating Nonprofit Corporations Act

Suit Seeks Audits, Transparency to Ensure Cultural Landmark’s Success

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that he has filed suit against Howard Theatre Restoration, Inc. (HTR) for violating the District’s Nonprofit Corporations Act. HTR’s failure to properly obtain audits, the suit argues, endangers the group’s ability to fulfill its charitable purpose of supporting the historic landmark and entertainment venue in the heart of Shaw.

“The Howard Theatre is a vital piece of the District’s cultural heritage. We are bringing this suit to ensure that HTR meets its legal obligation to preform regular financial audits in a complete, accurate and transparent manner,” Attorney General Racine said. “This is especially important given District taxpayers’ $12 million investment in the theater’s restoration. Our suit alleges that HTR’s failure to follow the Nonprofit Corporations Act is undermining the Howard’s ability to succeed.”

HTR is at the center of a group of non-profit and for-profit entities related to the District-owned theater’s redevelopment and management. It was established in 2007 as a non-profit organization for the purposes of the restoration, revival, and maintenance of the historic venue; to support and educate the public regarding the performing arts; and to educate the public regarding the Howard’s role as a concert hall for African-American performers in the days when most performance venues in Washington were segregated. Among the artists who have passed through the Howard in its century-plus of existence include Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix. One of HTR’s most important roles currently is as the landlord of the Howard’s operator, Howard Theatre Entertainment (HTE). 

The suit, available here alleges one count of failing to act in accordance with HTR’s nonprofit purposes under the law due to HTR’s failure to obtain final audits for the last seven fiscal years. The District alleges that HTR’s failure to obtain these audits results in a lack of financial accountability and transparency, which hinders HTR’s ability to effectively obtain funding and support the Howard. The suit asks the Court to appoint an independent auditor to prepare those audits.