Peninsula Symphony Embezzlement Case Just Became Creepy

In March, 2014 Peninsula Symphony Orchestra’s former executive director, Stephen Jay Carlton, was arrested on charges of grand theft, embezzlement, forgery, ID theft and tax fraud, plus enhancements for excessive taking. A recent article by Tracey Kaplan in the 12/5/2014 edition of the Mercury News reports Carlton was recently convicted on all charges and prosecutors are asking for a 16 year sentence, which might seem extreme for embezzling $272,000; that is, until the creepy part comes to light.

Adaptistration People 132According to Kaplan’s report, prosecutors are seeking the stiff penalty because Carlton has a voluntary manslaughter conviction from 1991 due to what Carlton’s attorney loosely described as a consensual erotic asphyxiation accident.

The entire ordeal reaches far beyond the typical embezzlement scenario. Mark MacNamara published a comprehensive overview of Carlton’s illicit activities in an article at sfcv.org originally published on 4/11/2014 then updated on 09/22/2014. It’s worth taking the time to give it a read, especially if you’re a board member responsible for due diligence and oversight.

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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