There's been a shake-up in New Jersey politics. Steve Runk, the executive director of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, has resigned.
"It has been an honor to serve the New Jersey State Council on the Arts over the past 20 years, three as the Executive Director, however I have determined that now is the right time to explore a new career path," wrote Runk in a letter to the chair of the Arts Council dated April 4.
Since last summer, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno has called for Runk's resignation following reports that said Arts Council members had violated a state ethics code by asking for and accepting "freebie" tickets to arts events the council funded.
Lee Rosenbaum, an arts critic who blogs at ArtsJournal.com as CultureGrrl, says Guadagno's call for termination is harsh since Arts Council members are required to visit arts events they fund. "On the scale of corruption and political malfeasance—on a scale of one to 10—this ranks about a zero," she told WNYC.
Last week, Guadagno called for Runk's termination again after an audit showed that the Arts Council had allegedly awarded several no-bid contracts amounting to more than $300,000.
The State Arts Council awarded $16 million in grants to New Jersey arts organizations last year. Under Runk, the council also reinstated artist fellowships this year that had been suspended in 2010 due to limited resources.
"He always seemed pleasant to me," said Carolyn Clark, the co-founder and director of the New Jersey Ballet Company. "The Arts Council has always been extremely supportive. Without the Arts Council, I don't think any of the arts organizations in New Jersey would exist."
In his resignation letter, Runk said he would stay at the Council up until July 31.