It Just Isn’t A New Season Without Some (alleged) Fraud

It seems rare to watch a season pass without a report of fraud or embezzlement and according to an article by Janos Gereben in the 10/11/2013 edition of the San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV), the 2013/14 season is off with a half million dollar bang. Gereben reports that the Peninsula Symphony, a community orchestra located in Los Altos, CA, discovered at the beginning of the month that their endowment and general operating bank accounts had been drained.

ITA-GUY-026According to the SFCV report, questions about the missing funds appear to be tied to the abrupt departure of the orchestra’s former executive director. Add to that, the Los Altos Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into the matter and Gereben reports that the orchestra’s spokesperson, Larry Kamer, confirmed a suspect exists but declined to mention any names.

In the meantime, the potential silver lining here is the orchestra’s stakeholders appear to be rallying together to raise enough funds to continue the season. If nothing else, it’s heartening to see everyone working together in the wake of what appears to be a very malevolent act.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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6 thoughts on “It Just Isn’t A New Season Without Some (alleged) Fraud”

    • I wondered the same thing too and that’s a reasonable concern to have but the article suggests that the root of the trouble was one individual and that person has been removed. All things being equal, it would be surprising if the institution doesn’t put improved accounting and cash handling procedures in place.

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