The Sandy Springs Foundation reorganized itself at a Sept. 26 board meeting, turning itself private, changing its name and cutting ties with the city government.

The organization was originally set up to handle naming rights, fundraising, programming and arts education for City Springs, the city’s new theater and civic complex. The foundation essentially was dissolved at the meeting and a new, private version created, which will now be known as the Sandy Springs Arts Foundation.

“We still have the same mission of supporting the performances and the programming, but we’ll have more flexibility and be independent,” said Ken Byers, the chair of the foundation, whose name is on the main City Springs theater following a large donation. 

Leaders earlier this year said the foundation was behind on an ambitious fundraising goal, and Byers had spoken of discussing whether the organization could avoid state open records and open meeting laws. Attorneys had previously determined that the organization was a public entity subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law and Open Records Act, including its heavy funding from public money and its mayoral-appointed board that includes such government officials as City Manager John McDonough and City Councilmember John Paulson.

Both those officials are off the foundation board, and the group is no longer using city funding, legal and accounting services or office space. It is now a nonprofit separate from the city and no longer subject to those laws, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.

Still up for debate by the board is whether Reed Haggard, who serves on the city’s Planning Commission, should resign from the foundation due to conflicts of interest.

At previous meetings, city officials said the expectation was that the foundation would become a self-sustaining organization relatively quickly and quit using city resources.

Emily Hutmacher, who was hired in January, remains the executive director.

When the foundation was created, its operation was delayed by months while the city untangled the legal status of its fundraising role in the publicly funded City Springs Performing Arts Center facility.

Any changes the foundation seeks to make to the City Springs building, including naming rights, would still go through the city’s Public Facilities Authority, Kraun said.

“The city has had discussions with foundation leadership who felt they could more and broaden their scope by operating independently,” Kraun said.

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