Was there a conflict of interest in the OEAA nomination process? | Lazy-i

Yesterday’s post outlining the nomination process for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAAs) resulted in a number of people suggesting there was a conflict of interest since Board President Emily Engles works for a number of bands nominated in various categories. As OEAA Board President and facilitator of the nomination process, was Engles in a position to influence the final list of nominees?

To help clarify the issue, I asked Engles, via email. Here’s what she said:

Me: Which OEAA-nominated bands and performers do you work for?

Engles: The Decatures – booking/promo; Stonebelly – booking; Mitch Gettman – booking/promo (this partnership started Sept 3); The Willards Band – booking/promo.

Me: What do you do for those bands/performers, and do they pay you?

Engles: Yes, these bands pay me a monthly fee. E3 Music Management is registered with the State of Nebraska..I have also done some “freelance” work for Hector Anchondo and Matt Cox…referrals and connecting them with the right people, mostly.

Me: How were you involved in the nomination process, specifically in categories where bands you work for were nominated?

Engles: As OEAA President and a member of the music committee within the board, I serve as facilitator. I make sure each committee (Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Music) have the list of nominees, meet deadlines, gather contact information, etc. A music review committee of board members and music voting academy members gathered to go over the full list of nominees (like I said in an online comment, we look at the entire list down to those with only one vote, not just the top six). We make sure the artists are in the correct category (many fans put a band in both rock and hard rock or both country and Americana, not knowing where they may fall) and look at the entire list for who may be moved up once those bands that should not be in a category are removed.

In regard to the categories where bands I work for were nominated, I remove myself from the discussion about who should be moved up once the incorrect bands are removed. I allow the other four members to make the final decision…I do not push or make the final call as I might in other categories.

Engles suggested I reach out John Heaston for a formal statement from the OEAAs in regard to the organization’s conflict of interest policy. “We have board members who are also in the arts and may be nominated,” Engles said. “We have voting academy members who may also be nominated…it is requested they remove themselves from actively participating in such categories, just as I did in regard to the bands I work for.

“The bands I work for are nominated because they are talented and work hard to make an impact on the Omaha music scene,” she wrote. “I work hard for them and they work hard for me.”

To clarify further, Engles pointed me to the nomination statement from the OEAA website, which you can read here.

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A final thought…

When you turn art into a competition, you are saying one work of art is better than another work of art. Conversely, you’re saying something isn’t as good as something else. All art is subjective. I might think Bob Dylan’s voice is mercurial; you might think it sucks. The truth is in the eye — or ear — of the beholder.

I can make you a top-20 list of my favorite Nebraska bands. You can agree or disagree with as much of it as you want, understanding at the end of the day it’s just one man’s opinion.

And when you create a non-profit organization that’s designed to recognize the brightest local talent through an awards program, there’s going to be people who disagree with your choices.

However, when the area’s best-selling local albums by the three local performers who draw the largest local crowds are not nominated for the Album of the Year, Singer/Songwriter of the Year or Artist of the Year, people are going to ask questions.

I asked the questions yesterday. The answer was very clear. All three artists were considered during the nomination process, and Conor Oberst, The Faint and Orenda Fink simply didn’t make the cut. The nominating committee felt they’re not as good as those nominated for Best Singer/Songwriter; their records were not as good as those nominated for Album of the Year, and as artists and musicians, they simply didn’t do as much musically as the people who were nominated for Artist of the Year. The OEAA nominating committee has spoken.

Do you agree with them?

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.