Denver Comic Con: Convention heads respond to co-founder Charlie La Greca's allegations

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Since its founding in 2012, Denver Comic Con (DCC) has become a powerful force; it attracted 61,000 attendees last year, making it the fifth-largest comic convention nationwide. But as in comic books, with power often comes turmoil. Yesterday morning, co-founder Charlie La Greca posted an open letter on a new "Save Denver Comic Con" website alleging he was forced out of the operation and that the DCC and its affiliated nonprofit, Comic Book Classroom (CBC), are plagued with mismanagement. Now La Greca's former colleagues -- convention director Christina Angel and CBC education director Illya Kowalchuk -- have responded to his accusations. See also: Denver Comic Con rift threatens the event's founder and his original cause

In his letter, La Greca says he was removed from the organization against his wishes; that another co-founder, Frank Romero, resigned; and that the Comic Book Classroom board of directors walked away from an attempt to resolve matters through mediation and instead threatened him with a lawsuit. But Angel and Kowalchuk, who note they're also co-founders, say that's not the way events transpired. According to them, last spring before the 2013 convention, La Greca, then a boardmember, asked to get paid. As an all-volunteer organization, CBC doesn't pay its boardmembers, so La Greca stepped down and was hired as a three-month contract employee, helping with art direction for the convention.

"Over the course of the three months of the contract, he did his job to the best of his ability, and then after three months, his contract was not renewed," says Kowalchuk, who's reluctant to explain why. "I feel it would be unprofessional of us to discuss the circumstances around our decision to not renew his contract. It doesn't feel like the right thing to do out in the open, for Charlie's sake."

He later adds, "You have to have the right people in the right positions doing the right jobs. And sometimes, it's not personal. It's about having the best intentions of the organization at heart."

Yes, say Angel and Kowalchuk, late last summer, the parties involved did attempt mediation, but they say it was La Greca who sabotaged the effort, informing the board of directors that he'd obtained nonprofit legal counsel on the day they were supposed to discuss whether to continue with mediation. "He was the one who lawyered-up first and forced our hand to seek legal council," says Angel, although Kowalchuk adds that there is no pending legal action.

As for co-founder Frank Romero? "It's implied in Charlie's letter that we forced him out," says Angel. "That is not the case. He resigned for personal reasons. We are on amicable terms with him, and he is welcome to return at any time."

Angel and Kowalchuk also contest La Greca's claim in his letter that "since the 2013 convention, it seems the teaching and literacy programs have been nonexistent." They note that Comic Book Classroom, a comic literacy organization funded by convention revenue, is currently running a program in Alicia Sanchez Elementary School in Lafayette. While that's less programming than usual, they say that's because the operation has been busy gearing up for a far more ambitious effort than ever before.

Read on for more of the Denver Comic Con board's response to Charlie La Greca "At the end of the 2013 convention, we realized we had been given an opportunity to have an organization that could go nationwide and could affect thousands of more kids," says Kowalchuk. To that end, they say CBC has been spending most of its time lately building organizational infrastructure -- developing ties with local organizations like PlatteForum, planning new curricula with schools like West Generation Academy and hiring a CBC executive director, Christine Tubbs, after a five-month process that involved vetting more than 250 candidates. Now they say they're putting the finishing touches on programs for this summer that should involve 300 to 400 kids.

And as for the $300,000 in 2013 convention revenues that La Greca alleges are unaccounted for? "It's not unaccounted for," says Angel. "We have accountants, we have bookkeepers; it's all accounted for." Yes, the convention grossed roughly $1.3 million last year, but just under a million of that went to convention-center rental costs, staffing, labor, taxes and the other overhead costs associated with running the event. The rest goes to help fund CBC.

Finally, Angel takes issue with the name of La Greca's new website: "Save Denver Comic Con."

"The con does not need saving," she says. "It is in good hands."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.