An event designed in part to honor a man who has quietly donated more than $1 million, either personally or through his company, to benefit children in the Coachella Valley is turning into a political firestorm — and jeopardizing a premier fundraiser.

At least two members of the Rancho Mirage City Council – Richard Kite and Iris Smotrich, who is seeking re-election in April – expressed their displeasure with the Board of Trustees of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert for its selection of the honoree, Amir Afsar, president, confirmed.

The honoree at the center of the growing controversy is Skip Paige. He helped develop the Coachella, Stagecoach and Desert Trip music festivals into signature, sell-out events in the Coachella Valley as COO of Goldenvoice. He has since retired.

Here’s the rub giving council members heartburn. Paige is in a committed relationship with Katherine “Kate” Spates who is challenging three incumbents in the April City Council election.

Afsar said the decision to honor Paige was decided long before Spates announced her candidacy and filed her nomination papers.

Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert

A thank you letter from a child after visiting the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert.

“Skip has done a great deal for our museum and for children without a lot of fanfare,” Afsar said. “Our goal was to find and honor someone who supports children.”

During Paige’s tenure at Goldenvoice, he spearheaded several philanthropic initiatives including the foundation of the Academy of Music Performance (AMP) which provides summer music camps and year-round educational and performance opportunities to young musicians living in the Coachella Valley; and California CareForce, a three-day clinic in Indio providing free medical, dental and optical services to persons of all ages.

 

Kite is an ex-officio member of the Museum board who steps up when he’s needed and is “like a member of the board,” Afsar said. “He is dedicated and an avid supporter. I appreciate what he has to say. If he has a problem with anything, I want him to tell me.”

He did not elaborate on Smotrich’s expressions of displeasure. His silence spoke volumes.

Kite did not return calls for comment.

Paige also did not return requests for comment.

In an email sent at 10:17 p.m. Wednesday, Smotrich told Uken Report, “Yes, we will be attending … so many worthy events coming all at once … need 10 more hours in my days.”

Less than a week before the event, not a single member of the Rancho Mirage City Council has confirmed his or attendance at the event, Afsar told Uken Report.

Children's Discovery Museum

Creative Builders Exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert.

“It is not appropriate for any City Council member or candidate to oppose our fundraiser,” Afsar said in a telephone interview. “”They are opposing our efforts to raise money. They’re not hurting Kate Spates or Skip Paige. They are only hurting children. I need our City Council to support our museum. It’s one of only a few indoor activities available to children.”

Paige will be honored during a celebration of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert celebrate its 30th year in the Coachella Valley on Feb. 15, 2018 at the Clubhouse at BIGHORN. At this fundraiser, attendees will celebrate the past 30 years while supporting the Museum as it moves toward the future in Rancho Mirage, Afsar said. The Museum will also highlight the vision for the future and recognize the accomplishments of past and present board members.

“We are trying to raise money for a local children’s museum,” Afsar said. “This is the last thing I need. It is disappointing for me to have any City Council member not to support the Museum. If you are against hands-on learning for children — fine.”

The political hissy fits come at a time when the Museum is trying to increase its valued donor base.

This event is tailored as the Museum’s premier fundraiser of the year. A;l proceeds will benefit Museum attendees as the money raised will allow the Museum to upgrade and expand its offerings.

“The Museum is an important part of the Coachella Valley community,” CEO Carol E. Scott said in a prepared statement. “We provide families with the opportunity to explore and play together in a safe, inclusive environment. We rely on events like this to raise critical funds needed to serve our community and sustain our work.”

Money that the Museum collects through this fundraiser will support the Museum in its mission to inspire personal growth by engaging curiosity and creativity through hands-on exploration, according to Scott. As a valuable community resource for children and families, CDMOD offers an opportunity to experience the joy of learning about themselves and the world around them.

The event will allow the Museum to continue to enhance the quality of life of the community through programming in the areas of health, education and cultural development.

“Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert is a community treasure, and we’re putting ourselves on the map. We want community leaders to come see what the Museum hopes for its future,” Afsar said.

The anniversary celebration and fundraiser is Feb. 15, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is open to adults age 21 and older. Guests will be treated to hors d’oeuvres, and an open bar will offer well drinks, beer and wine. The AMP program will feature performances by several young musicians.

A “giving tree” will display the wishes and hopes for the Museum’s future, and guests can make pledges to see them come to fruition. Tickets are $200 for an individual or $350 per couple. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information or to sponsor or purchase tickets, click HERE or call (760) 321-0602.