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A Legal Battle For Leadership Of The Mutual Musicians Foundation Now Awaits A Verdict

Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
The Mutual Musicians Foundation at 1823 Highland, home of the original Colored Musicians Local 627, is one of two National Historic Landmarks in Kansas City (the other is the Liberty Memorial).

After more than two years of litigation, a leadership fight over a Kansas City jazz landmark wrapped up Wednesday morning with nearly two hours of closing arguments.

But the verdict on who will lead the Mutual Musicians Foundation is not out yet. Circuit Court Judge Charles McKenzie said Wednesday he was taking the case under advisement. 

The bench trial started in late November at the Jackson County Circuit Court in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Tuesday marked the fourth and final day of testimony. 

"Each side is pointing fingers at taking away some of the money or resources of the foundation," jazz historian Larry Kopitnik told KCUR

Once the union hall for the Colored Musicians Local 627, the foundation is one of only two National Historic Landmarks in Kansas City (the other one is the Liberty Memorial). These days it is known for its after-hours jam sessions on Saturdays and Sundays.

Related: Kansas City's Oldest Jazz Institution Isn't Afraid Of New Beats — Or Other Challenges 

Anita Dixon, who served as the board's vice president, often served as spokesperson. But in August 2016, she was ousted after a heated board meeting. In a lawsuit filed in October 2016 and updated in March 2017, Dixon claimed other board members, including chairman James Hathaway, failed to comply with bylaws, took a cut from jam session door fees, and retaliated against her.

A counterclaim alleged that Dixon used foundation funds for her own use, took artifacts, photographs, and other items, and left the foundation more than $8,000 in debt. 

The court's decision could determine the future direction for the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Aprovision in Missouri law allows a director of a nonprofit to take what's called derivative action, so Dixon sued on behalf of the organization, not herself.

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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