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Donor family says war over Nashua art funds is disgraceful

Union Leader Correspondent

May 17. 2017 9:43PM

NASHUA — The local family that bequeathed nearly $1 million to the Nashua Center for the Arts — an organization now seeking to dissolve and donate the trust funds to Manchester’s Currier Museum of Art — described the ongoing court battle over the cash as a “political money grab.”

“We have not even buried my father’s ashes and the city of Nashua is trying to redirect his gift toward something he never knew about and is not here to consider at this time,” Alexandra E. Carter, the daughter of the late John Carter, wrote in court records.

According to Alexandra Carter, her father visited the Attorney General’s Office before his death and made his wishes clear in the form of a signed, witnessed affidavit that he wanted the funds to go to the Currier.

But Mayor Jim Donchess has said that he believes the intent of the original bequest by Edith Carter was to benefit arts organizations in Nashua.

City Arts Nashua, the Nashua Choral Society, Symphony New Hampshire and the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce hired their own attorney and filed objections last month in 9th Circuit Court, Nashua Probate Division, to the request by Nashua Center for the Arts to dissolve and transfer its assets. The city of Nashua has filed a similar objection.

Nashua and the four organizations asked the court to permit Nashua Center for the Arts to reconstitute its board to undertake the purpose of the agency and promote arts in the Gate City.

“That my family’s fight has become a political money grab to fight over in the courts is disgraceful and deeply disrespectful,” Steven E. Carter, the son of the late John Carter, wrote in court documents. “What kind of precedent does it set for future potential donors if the city of Nashua is allowed to violate the direction of that donation and simply hijack it for its own purposes?”

In court documents, Alexandra E. Carter argued that the Currier should be the guardian of the funds, and that the beneficiaries still include Nashua residents since its purpose is education and access to the visual arts.

She said at no time did the Currier solicit her father for the money.

“The city had many years to communicate a desire or roll out a plan, but they never did,” she wrote. “This sends a message of doubt to anyone thinking to bequeath a sum to Nashua or any organization for a specific purpose.”

Thomas Donovan, director of charitable trusts for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, has assented to the petition to dissolve and transfer assets to the Currier.

In newly filed court documents, Donovan asked the court to grant the dissolution and plan for asset distribution, or revoke Nashua Center for the Art’s registration as a charitable organization and require that the assets at the Currier be held in a permanently restricted fund to benefit the arts in Nashua.

Judge Patricia Quigley is handling the case. A hearing was originally scheduled for June 15, but it has been postponed, according to a court clerk.

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