Government

Creative force behind 'newbo evolve' decries his critics

Others who were involved in money-loser 'now running for the hills'

Scott Tallman, director of community events for GO Cedar Rapids, speaks Jan. 29 at a news conference to announce that a new music and arts festival, called “newbo evolve’ will take place in August. The festival lost $2.3 million and forced GO Cedar Rapids to fold. Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Scott Tallman, director of community events for GO Cedar Rapids, speaks Jan. 29 at a news conference to announce that a new music and arts festival, called “newbo evolve’ will take place in August. The festival lost $2.3 million and forced GO Cedar Rapids to fold. Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The creative force behind August’s “newbo evolve” defended himself Wednesday from criticism that he shares a large part of the blame for the failures of the music and culture festival, saying he did his job “incredibly well.”

The Aug. 3-5 festival featuring Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson lost $2.3 million and led to the closure of the GO Cedar Rapids tourism agency.

Scott Tallman, who was fired as community events director of GO Cedar Rapids afterward, was a focal point of a critical Facebook post Tuesday by former colleague Taylor McGurk. McGurk lost his job as the agency’s director of destination development when it folded Oct. 15.

Tallman didn’t respond directly to McGurk’s criticisms, but lumped them in with broader finger-pointing.

“I was hired to do a job and did it incredibly well, but all people want to do is talk about the money,” Tallman said. “Somebody somewhere needs to stop and say, ‘This is something great that happened and we need to acknowledge that.’ Cedar Rapids is full of an awful lot of Monday morning quarterbacks who want to point fingers and assign blame rather than look in the mirror.”

In his Facebook post, McGurk laid the “epically tone-deaf vision of a delusional human being that did not possess the skills nor was provided the leadership necessary to execute anything other than the disaster that it was” at Tallman’s feet, although not by name.

Tallman and former chief executive Aaron McCreight have been almost exclusively blamed by the GO Cedar Rapids board of directors and city leaders as the two men responsible for failures of the event.

McGurk also had critical comments — again, not by name — for McCreight, who was fired and has not responded to requests for comment.

Tallman has relocated to Palm Springs, Calif., which is the area from which he was recruited to Cedar Rapids to play the lead role in creating a “signature event.”

He said city officials urged GO Cedar Rapids to create a “game changer” and the board of directors signed off — knowing they initially had no money set aside for the event and then twice approving increased offers to land Maroon 5.

Additionally, when prospects were looking grim, Tallman said he proposed exploring consolidating the event to the DoubleTree Hotel complex where celebrity speaker sessions already were scheduled. Rather than setting up festival grounds in the New Bohemia District and having mobile bars on Third Street SE, the concerts would be held at the U.S. Cellular Center and save $600,000 to $700,000 under his idea, he said.

But Tallman said he was told to continue as first planned.

“I am proud of the work I did,” he said. “I think it is time people of Cedar Rapids involved in this grow up and take a look in the mirror. The idea this is Scott’s folly is insane to me. Everyone participated in this. I love it how everyone is now running for the hills.”

GO Cedar Rapids directors in August said they had been given inflated numbers for ticket sales, that expenses were greater than approved, and that some vendor contracts were not fully reviewed and approved.

Despite promises for a professional audit to shed light on what happened, one was not conducted before GO Cedar Rapids closed its doors.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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