Tonawanda News

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April 11, 2014

Cannata out as Riviera Theatre director

Longtime director resigns, files lawsuit over severance deal

Tonawanda News — When a new marquee is installed at the historic Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda in a few weeks it may advertise more than just upcoming shows. It could well say “help wanted.”

Frank Cannata, the executive director of the Riviera for about a decade — who’s been credited with the theater’s turnaround, returning it to a regional entertainment destination after languishing for years — has resigned. 

In addition, he recently filed a lawsuit against his former employer over the terms of his departure, specifically a severance package he says the theater’s board owes him, but has not paid.

The reason for his departure remains unclear. Both he and members of the theater’s board have declined to elaborate.

“Officially, I resigned,” Cannata said, adding because of the lawsuit he is not able to speak publicly about the problems that led to his resignation in late January.

In practice, however, Cannata has not been running the theater for nearly six months.

Cannata took a leave of absence in early November, according to Riviera Board Member Phyllis Gentner. 

“What we know for a fact is for the last quarter of 2013 Frank was on a leave of absence as executive director of the theater,” she said. 

A News reporter inquired about Cannata’s absence at the time and was told it was for health reasons. Cannata denied that was the reason for his leave but declined to say what the real reason was.

“I did not have a leave of absence at that point because of health reasons,” Cannata said.

Gentner said she is limited on what she could disclose about Cannata’s resignation, citing a personnel issue. 

Joyce Santiago, president of the non-profit board that oversees the theater, said in an interview with the Tonawanda News on Thursday she was not given a reason for Cannata’s initial leave of absence and refused to disclose why he tendered his resignation. When asked if his departure was due to an internal fight with the board, Santiago said “no.” 

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