Bach’s Office Bandit

As if comp tickets weren’t already a briar patch of a topic, you now have to worry about them covering up embezzlement. This latest example in alleged nonprofit crime happened right here in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune published an article on 11/10/2017 by John von Rhein that reports Chicago Opera Theater’s (COT) former box office manager managed to allegedly steal more than $100,000 by diverting ticket sale funds to an account he controlled. He allegedly covered his tracks by recording the sales as comp tickets.

During Gore’s employ at COT, which lasted 3 ½ years until he left the company in May 2016, he allegedly diverted customers’ credit card ticket payments to a personal account, recording the tickets as complimentary, said Douglas Clayton, the company’s general director.

The alleged thefts took place from September 2014 through Gore’s departure in 2016, police say.

Adaptistration People 132If nothing else, this should inspire many of you to reach for your box office sales reports and make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary.

But in all seriousness, regular audits should include box office transactions.

Having said that, the box office and/or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform could make this a straightforward task or a royal pain in the neck.

Postscript: in order to lighten an otherwise gloomy subject, I reached out on Facebook and asked pun-inclined friends to submit title suggestions for today’s post. The winner is composer Alex Shapiro; she’s so clever it hurts. Check out her music at

Honorable mentions include (in no particular order):

  • Comps and Robbers (h/t Katie Edwards)
  • Opera-ting outside the law? (h/t Katie Edwards)
  • Hoping to avoid Elektra chair (h/t Jim Stephenson)
  • Box office thief gets Bizet stealing money and declares: “Carmen’s a bitch” (h/t Jim Stephenson)
  • Der Meisterdieb von Chicago (h/t Marc van Bree)
  • The Tenmillionpenny Opera (h/t Marc van Bree)
  • COT in the act: easy comp, easy go. (h/t David Kleeman)
  • Straight outta comped ‘em. (h/t David Kleeman)
  • Aida some money; I’d really Lakmé some dough. (h/t Erin Spiker)
  • A Comp-licated Opera-tion (h/t Eric M. Thomas)

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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