Friends of the Rochester Civic Theater respond to MPR Story

This evening a report is set to air during “All Things Considered” on MPR (print version available now at mprnews.org) that describes several allegations of sexual harassment against former RCT executive Director Gregory Stavrou throughout his tenure at the theatre, and shines a light on a leadership culture that was unwilling or unable to make the behavior stop.

On March 14th the Friends of RCT group brought a group letter with over 150 signatures to the RCT board of directors requesting the termination or resignation of (now former) executive director Gregory Stavrou for his pattern of gross misconduct as well as his poor management, and called on the board to address the caustic leadership culture that grew under Stavrou’s tenure. Board members were being hand-picked by the executive director instead of nominated by members and directors, and the executive committee had taken on almost all board functions, with the full board meeting only 3 times in 2016, when at least 10 meetings per year were specified in the organizational bylaws. Financially, in the years 2008-14, where financials are available under the Stavrou tenure, the theatre experienced a net loss of $250,000.

Several personal letters in support of the group letter were also submitted to the board, some of which (three signed and three anonymous) detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Stavrou. “The board has never addressed the issue of Stavrou’s misconduct with either Friends of RCT or the victims themselves, much less apologized for such neglect or condemned such behavior from staff. These brave individuals were never followed up with or otherwise contacted. The only comments made by board representatives were shockingly and irresponsibly dismissive,” said Audrey Rinkoski, who submitted one such letter. Heather Holmes, outgoing President of the RCT board, was quoted by Med City Beat in June saying “There were a number of allegations that were put together and shared in an open letter to the board back in March, and again it’s allegations, so there wasn’t a lot of weight put into that.”

Ongoing discussions between the Friends of RCT and the board went public in June after Artistic Director Greg Miller was dismissed. The dismissal and a decision by the RCT board to change the organization’s bylaws, including the removal of member voting rights, further upset the group. “We’ve lost all confidence in the current leadership and its ability to carry out the mission of the organization,” said Jerry Casper, former Rochester Civic Theatre board member. “The mission has been compromised by a history of poor leadership decisions, negligence and gross misconduct.”

The Friends of RCT are committed to returning RCT to a safe, healthy place for the community to be engaged and enriched by the theatrical arts. They believe that several recent decisions of the board need to be re-evaluated and that the board needs new leadership.

Support for the Friends of the Rochester Civic Theatre group has now swelled to over 500 signatures on a petition criticizing the board’s recent decisions, and they have a website at http://iamtherct.org/