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Posted: 12/12/12

MTA suing DIA for
charging admission

DIA claims free admission policy
doesn't cover specialty exhibits

Observer Staff Writer
      The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is facing a lawsuit from unhappy taxpayers that say all admission to the museum should be free.
       The Michigan Taxpayers Alliance (MTA) filed a lawsuit against the DIA on Dec. 6, claiming it hasn't kept its promise of free admission for residents with the passing of a millage.
       In August, just over half of Macomb County voters passed a 10-year millage that supports the operations of the DIA. In return, the DIA promised free admission to all county residents.
       DIA administrators deny the lawsuit's allegations, saying ever since they began campaigning for the millage that the free admission wouldn't apply to every DIA activity.
       They said residents still need to buy tickets for specialty programs, such as the "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" or "FabregĂ©" exhibits.
       "We remain firm in our belief that Macomb, Oakland and Wayne county residents are reaping great benefits from this agreement," said Annmarie Erickson, DIA chief operating officer.
       Erickson said nearly 18,000 Macomb County residents have visited the museum free of charge since Aug. 8 when the free admission program began.
       The Macomb County Art Institute Authority is in charge of providing tax revenue raised by the millage to the DIA so long as the museum adheres to the contract between itself and the art authority.
       According to the contract, the DIA is to "provide unlimited, free museum admission for all residents of Macomb County, including self-guided student field trips."
       The DIA said this policy covers general admission to the museum as well as activities such as live music, art-making workshops and tours.
       The 0.2 millage, approved by 50.5 percent of Macomb County voters, is expected to raise $23 million annually, with $5 million raised by Macomb County.
       The millage also passed in Oakland and Wayne counties, with Oakland contributing $10 million and Wayne providing $8 million.
       The lawsuit has been filed by MTA Chairperson Leon Drolet as well as by Dennis and Judy Buchholtz, Philis Desaele and Simon Haddad. Calls to the MTA were not returned as of print deadline.

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