BUTTE — Kelly Knievel has threatened to “destroy” the top organizer of Evel Knievel Days unless he signs a pact with the county and caves to other demands.
“Didn’t I send you an email explaining how this was going to go down?” Knievel said an expletive-laced voicemail left with Chad Harrington, the director of the Evel Days Organizing Committee, last Wednesday night.
“You’re going to sign that agreement with Butte-Silver Bow and you are going to move along as director of the committee and change your ways or I’m going to destroy you,” said Knievel, the eldest son of the late Butte daredevil. “Do you hear me?”
A recording of the voicemail was obtained Monday by The Montana Standard and marks the ugliest turn yet in a weeks-long struggle for control of the festival, one of the three major events highlighting the summer tourism season in Butte.
Harrington said the remarks were offensive and completely unjustified and came just hours after Knievel — through a letter to the Standard — apologized to Butte for suggesting he could take the festival elsewhere.
Harrington sent the two voicemails to Butte-Silver Bow commissioners along with an email Knievel sent with demands and threats if they were not met. The threats included suing Harrington and taking matters over finances to federal and state authorities.
Knievel confirmed to the Standard on Monday that he left voicemails with Harrington, calling them a “rant” that started after hearing remarks Harrington made in a TV news interview.
Knievel said he does not believe the Evel Days Organizing Committee is following the bylaws of its nonprofit organization and other financial rules, and in the voicemails he threatened to take his allegations to the IRS and “lead the investigation” into the group.
“I’m going to subpoena every (expletive) person on that board,” he said. “I’m going to ask them every single question about the (expletive) bylaws. I’m going to audit every single contact. I’m going to (expletive) drag you through the (expletive) media.
“You are not going to like what’s coming to you.”
Knievel, who owns the intellectual rights to his late father’s name, has said a licensing agreement to use it in connection with the July festival needs to be renewed. He wants that new pact with the county, not the volunteer Evel Days group as in the past, although he said Monday he had withdrawn that request.
It's only one of several disputes now threatening to derail the festival.
The county wants the Evel Days group to sign a new operating agreement with the county spelling out each side’s obligations.
There already is an existing agreement with Evel Days and several other festivals that get tax dollars and other public money from the county, but Chief Executive Matt Vincent said new, individual ones are needed to ensure stability and accountability. Vincent is Knievel's brother-in-law.
Harrington and Jim Dick, another member of the Evel Days volunteer group, said those comments are offensive because they imply they have done something wrong.
Knievel declined to say Monday what bylaws or financial rules he thinks the Evel Days committee has broken, saying that was up for “the IRS and the attorney general to determine.”
“I am angry that the bylaws and reporting rules — I don’t believe they have been followed as they should be and I think that my dad and the city of Butte deserve better,” he said.
Harrington said again Monday that the Evel Days committee has given detailed revenue and expenditure reports to the county, the latest of which are included in a county report released last month.
“That is what is so frustrating,” he said. “We are just a non-profit group that is extremely accountable.”
The new pact the county wants includes many of the same things in its current agreement with the festival, which runs through 2015, Harrington said, but it also has language about a new naming rights agreement.
Harrington noted that a new licensing agreement over naming rights does not even exist, so he said the county’s proposed operating pact with the committee is void, too.
Harrington said the group has done nothing but put on a great, free festival to benefit the community and honor the late Evil Knievel, but for some reason, Kelly Knievel is “pissed off.” He said he does not know what the motive behind that is.
“He is acting like he is in an authority position,” Harrington said. “We don’t report to this guy.”
Jeff Amerman, who left his post as Butte-Silver Bow’s budget director recently to take another job, said all the tax-supported festivals appeared to be responsible, although their financial reports are not that detailed and hard to “glean much” from.
But in his observations, Amerman said, the Evel Days group “were the most fiscally responsible both for their program and for the limited dollars” the county gave them.
“I have never heard of a single complaint against them,” Amerman said. “I have never heard anyone question their bookkeeping.”