Turmoil Brews Inside Indiana Black Expo

Workers: Financial Woes, Poor Leadership Permeate Organization

A mutiny is brewing inside one of Indianapolis' most prominent civic organizations, Indiana Black Expo, just weeks from the start of Summer Celebration, one of the city's largest events.

The entire staff of the organization has expressed concern about the leadership and the direction of the organization, 6News' Rafael Sanchez reported.

While the event itself focuses on cultural pride, business and family, those within the organization are fed up with how it is run.

In a two-page letter to the organization's board dated May 6, employees questioned the organization's president, Tanya Bell, claiming that she created an uncomfortable environment "filled with doubt and mistrust" in which employees were "disrespected, disregarded and demeaned."

"She is the perfect example of a bully," the letter reads. "People report going home and crying over working conditions at IBE."

Staff members said grant dollars aren't being spent on intended projects, and some said they witnessed figures in various financial documents being changed.

The letter also claims that Bell's niece was hired and wasn't reprimanded for watching pornographic material while working in the lobby and wouldn't answer calls to the switchboard. She was eventually let go.

John Thompson, chairman of the board for Indiana Black Expo, said he supports Bell and that under her leadership, the organization is financially stable and was able to issue $150,000 in scholarships to college-bound students last year.

"Am I concerned about Tanya Bell doing something with the financials to distort them to do anything like that? I am absolutely not concerned that she's doing anything like that, except to make sure the financials are accurate," Thompson said.

Bell referred inquiries to Thompson, who said the board has hired a consulting firm to work with the staff and address internal turmoil within the office.

"We are working to address the concerns of the letter and the needs of the organization," Thompson said.

Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams said organizers must rise above internal fighting to keep the event successful.

"We have to save Expo, and I think we have enough people to figure this out," Williams said.

Staff members are expected to issue a follow-up to the letter on Friday.

The 41st annual Indiana Black Expo is set to begin July 7.