Donna Drew Sawyer remains the CEO of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, despite press reports to the contrary and calls for her resignation from Mayor Brandon Scott and members of the city arts community, according to an internal email reviewed by The Baltimore Banner.

After Scott sent a letter Friday demanding the board of the public-private organization secure Sawyer’s resignation by Jan. 15, the board met Saturday to discuss her job performance, which drew renewed ire this week after the organization cancelled the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade for the third year in a row.

In an unexplained, last-minute change of course, however, Scott tweeted Sunday night that the parade would be held. “There will be a MLK Day parade noon on January 16th kicking off at the normal starting point. My focus during the parade will be very simple! #wemuststopkillingeachother.”

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Scott did not explain how it was that his office had a change of mind since the parade was cancelled. In an email Friday night, Jack French, a spokesman for the mayor, confirmed only that a parade would be held in 2024.

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French also noted that BOPA mistakenly referred the parade as a “mayoral event,” which the mayor’s office defines as an event coordinated by “in-house” staff. Events involving third-party vendors, contractors and nonprofit organizations are not “mayoral events,” he said.

The Sunday night announcement capped several days of turmoil around the arts organization.

Staffers were informed by email at 9:46 p.m. Saturday that no decisions have been made regarding Sawyer’s tenure following a board meeting after Scott’s ultimatum.

“The Board met today and is working to determine the best way forward for BOPA as a whole. Once a decision has been made the Board will share it internally first,” a BOPA staffer wrote in the email update.

Monica Lewis, a spokesperson for Scott, declined to comment. Representatives from BOPA, including several board members, also did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

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A BOPA staffer who is not authorized to speak publicly said the CEO “seems to be digging in.”

BOPA, known as the city’s arts council, events center and film office, is a quasi-governmental organization that receives a significant portion of its funding from city government, but also raises private funds. The organization runs such events as Artscape, the Baltimore Book Festival and Light City.

The arts institution paused city events during the pandemic and has been criticized for delaying restarting events, despite significant funding. The office also manages facilities including the historic Cloisters Castle, the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, the School 33 Art Center, and Baltimore’s farmers market.

The organization uses city-invested funds, along with fundraised dollars, to support cultural and artistic activities and programming in Baltimore. In fiscal year 2023, it received $2.5 million in city general funds, according to Baltimore budget documents.

As of the fiscal year ending June 2020, BOPA reported total revenue of just under $5 million, according to online tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, with the majority coming from contributions and grants.

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Baltimore Banner reporters Liz Bowie and Hallie Miller contributed to this article.

emily.sullivan@thebaltimorebanner.com

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news.

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