Thursday, October 10, 2013

Breaking: Peninsula Symphony Missing Half Its Money

Rather shocking news:

Larry Kamer of the Kamer Consulting Group
(lkamer@kamergroup.com or 415.290.7240)

On Oct. 10, 2013, the Peninsula Symphony of Northern California issued the following statement:

The Peninsula Symphony of Northern California, a well-respected 65-year old non-profit arts organization based in Los Altos, whose musical presentations cover the San Francisco Peninsula, recently discovered that nearly all of its endowment and operating funds are missing. The Symphony immediately notified the Los Altos Police Department.

Symphony leaders have engaged, pro bono, the nationally known law firm of Baker & McKenzie to assist with the Symphony’s efforts to recover the missing assets. The Board of Directors is also in the process of securing the services of a professional accounting firm to investigate the financial losses and is implementing strengthened financial control mechanisms to protect future donations and contributions. The Executive Director has resigned and a search for a replacement is underway.

Upon learning of the situation, Symphony Board members and musicians rallied together within five days to pledge new contributions to fund nearly half a season’s scaled down operating budget. These pledges and donations by the musicians and the Board have allowed the Symphony to plan to present its complete announced season, beginning with concerts onOctober 25 and 26, featuring the legendary Irish pianist, John O’Conor, and the Masterworks Chorale, and followed by concerts at the new Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University with the Stanford University Symphonic Chorus on November 22 and 24.

Each year the Peninsula Symphony performs concerts for over 10,000 audience members from every community on the San Francisco Peninsula; presents more than 50 concerts to children in schools that lack their own music programs in Redwood City, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale; and offers master classes for hundreds of area high school musicians. The Symphony also performs free Family Concerts and outdoor concerts; provides performing opportunities for the community’s finest young musicians through the Marilyn Mindell Piano Competition and the Young Musicians’ Competition; and offers a wide variety of other educational programs through its Bridges to Music program.

The Symphony is appealing to all of its supporters and to the community at large for additional financial support to restore the organization to good financial health for many years to come. Key supporters have renewed their commitment to the future success of the Symphony by pledging a matching grant.

Donations may be sent to the Peninsula Symphony, 146 Main St., Suite 102, Los Altos, CA 94022, or made online atpeninsulasymphony.org.

Notably, the organization doesn't appear to have an executive director or a board president at the moment. The most recent 990 shows Steve Carlton as a paid employee, though without a title; some research shows that he was the ED from 2009 until....when?

Who had sufficient access to these accounts to abscond with the money, and how was it done? Over how many years?

Updates: kalimac points out in comments that the orchestra board has a chair and vice-chair: my bad, looking for a board president. Also, kalimac found a news report about the missing money, which he sent me in email.


Anonymous said...

No, there's a board chair, Alan Bien.

The most recent Wayback Machine entry for the page is dated 1/25/13 and gives Steve Carlton as the ED.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Ah, right: chair & vice-chair. I was looking for the wrong title.

Anonymous said...

Steve Carlton is still listed here.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Indeed he is: my guess is that the webmaster hasn't found that yet to remove his name.

Michael said...

Apparently it's not just the Peninsula Symphony accounts, but also individual board member accounts: see http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/2013/10/peninsula-symphonys-funds-missing.html