SPJA Strife

posted on by George Phillips
In what can be labelled as "Fans versus Industry", Mike Tatsugawa, a founder and the former CEO of the SPJA, has broken his silence. Mr. Tatsugawa is claiming that the organization he helped create is now involved in deception, abuse of power and shady financial deals.

Mike Tatsugawa's lengthy post on the Anime Expo webboard raises a number of allegations regarding the supposed mishandling of SPJA funds, and reveals that a few anime companies have taken over high-level Directorial positions, which Tatsugawa claims is a conflict of interests with how the convention is being planned.

Friction between Tatsugawa and other members of the SPJA has existed since shortly after AX 2000, the last AX that Tatsugawa chaired, but have been kept for the most part quiet. This marks the first time that the conflict is really brought into the public's eye.

The former CEO of SPJA raises a number of allegations regarding the running of the SPJA. Amongst the claims is that the Board of Directors has been hoarding money earned by the convention, preventing it from being used to support regular staff members. Coupled with this allegation, Tatsugawa claims that a lack of documentation regarding SPJA Board of Director meetings has reduced the accountability of the members. Finally, Tatsugawa states that in 2002, Jennifer Pon dissolved the advisory board to the Board of Directors. In effect, Tatsugawa claims that the Board of Directors is acting unchecked and independent of the remainder of the SPJA.

Mike Tatsugawa claims that, although the SPJA stated otherwise, some AX staff members, including current SPJA CEO Jennifer Pon, have been receiving a salary for their efforts.

The other primary issue is that Tatsugawa claims the SPJA has invited industry representatives onto the Board of Directors. According to Tatsugawa this means that the convention is no longer solely in the hands of fans, and that there is a potential for conflict of interest and self promotion. Already in the past, one industry employee was asked to leave the SPJA because of a conflict of interest. Furthermore, Tatsugawa believes that, with the American Anime Industry participating directly in the affairs of the SPJA, Anime Expo funds may be directed towards projects benefiting corporations rather than the fans who attend the convention.

Following up Mike Tatsugawa's post, Darold Higa stated that Anime Expo is readying itself for its first external tax audit, which will hopefully show just how much of Tatsugawa's allegations are valid.

The SPJA has yet to officially make a public response, however Jenifer Pon has stated that the issue will be brought up at a future staff meeting and has requested AX staff not to make any announcements.

This article has a follow-up: SPJA Responds to Accusations (2003-04-26 01:52)
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