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FOIA: Cerritos Refuses to Disclose Individual Show Ticket Sales and Revenue at the Cerritos Center

December 10, 2022

By Brian Hews

The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts has been losing millions every year, with only a handful of Councilmembers complaining and demanding action to curtail the massive losses while City management withholds information.

From 2014 to pre-pandemic 2019, expenses were severely cut, and the revenues followed suit; but the losses remained as overhead and cost per show remained high.

But the city was being dominated by Republicans Carol Chen, the late Jim Edwards, and current Mayor pro tem Bruce Barrows, who ignored the complaints by the council’s Democratic majority, bankrolled the losses with redevelopment funds and refused to be transparent concerning the losses.

They loved feeding their egos on the backs of taxpayer, the three were always seen at opening night making sure they were introduced to the crowd by the emcee prior to the show starting.

Some Republicans complained; business owners and former Mayors George Ray and current Councilman Naresh Solanki constantly complained about the losses, but the city kept the theater open while keeping the operating revenue and losses buried behind City Hall doors. 

Now, the current City Council, run by Bruce Barrows with his allies Mayor Chuong Vo and Councilmember Lynda Johnson, is again overlooking the losses, which hit nearly $3 million in 2019, according to the city’s audited financial statements.

Adding to the losses, Vo, Barrows and Johnson recently approved a new Executive Director position saddling the CCPA with an additional estimated $150,000 in annual salary and benefits.

The CCPA, like all other theaters, was forced to close during the pandemic, but in the summer of this year, staff was gearing up for events starting in September 2022 with its usual line-up of shows that average one every five days.

When questioned by councilmembers, management stated, “ticket sales are doing great for the season.”

But when asked about those sales, the city refuses to show how “great” the sales are.

In November of this year, HMG-CN requested year-to-date per-show ticket sales and revenues generated at the theater. 

Shows included Latin Rock R&B; Al Jardine, Family, & Friends Tour; Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., and the Commodores. A David Bowie Tribute Concert was cancelled.

Cerritos took the customary times to answer the request, then did not answer the request, sending documents with ticket sales and dollar amount redacted. 

The city was once again keeping the theater doors closed to scrutiny, refusing to comply with another records request by HMG-CN under the Freedom of Information Act.

WHY NOT SHOW TICKET SALES? Redacted document from Cerritos.

One thing was clear; Cerritos’ management is aware of ticket sales and revenue generation per show at the CCPA and does not want to reveal them.

The only item not redacted was the name of the show.

In refusing the request, the City Attorney cited California Government Code Section 6254.15 which dictates what is disclosable when an agency receives a public records request. 

The Code is voluminous and contains 33 subchapters (6254.1 – 6254.33) describing what is disclosable.

6254.15 states, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require the disclosure of records that are any of the following: corporate financial records, corporate proprietary information including trade secrets and information relating to siting within the state furnished to a government agency by a private company for the purpose of permitting the agency to work with the company in retaining, locating, or expanding a facility within California.

The requested information may be released to you upon the city’s receipt from you, the consent of individual artists, of release of this specific information.”

With the citation of 6254.15, the city is arguing that individual show ticket sales and revenues are not disclosable to the public, that the sales are proprietary information, and that individual artists must sign a release.

Yet those same ticket sales and revenues help pay for the fees paid by Cerritos to the artists to perform, funds that are clearly Cerritos taxpayer dollars; that should make the information disclosable.

In addition, the CCPA has spent hundreds of thousands in Cerritos’ taxpayer dollars advertising and promoting shows, including sending out a very expensive brochure via USPS to Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Yet the city will not disclose individual show ticket sales.

The documents show that overall CCPA sales are $2.059 million as of November 22, with over 25,000 tickets sold, but the report tallies all 52 show sales up until May 2023 and redacts individual shows sales.

Several emails into City Manager Art Gallucci and Cerritos Mayor Chuong Vo asking for comment about the non-disclosure went unanswered.