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An Open Letter to the Board of Directors

December 27, 2012

This letter was sent by Edward L. Fiandach, Esq. to the current board of directors including the honorary members on Novmeber 30, 2012.

Edward L. Fiandach

100 Smith Road Pittsford, NY 14534

November 30, 2012

Dear Board Member:

This is an open letter to the Board of Directors of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra which is simultaneously being released to the media.

For those of you who are unaware, during my brief tenure as a former Board Member of this organization, I contributed more than $100,000, not for business or tax reasons, but because I love what the RPO does. In 2010, as I have previously set forth in correspondence to this Board, I reluctantly resigned after being grossly misled by the CEO as to the cost of a particular sponsorship.

I am compelled to write however, not by a need to rehash the past, but to ask, in light of the almost unbelievable events that have now become a matter of public record, what are you thinking? Or more correctly, are you thinking at all? Are each of you fully cognizant of how severely you are breaching your responsibility to the Rochester community? Are you aware that your recent actions will all but shut down fund raising as we close out the 2012 tax year? I think not.

Over the past three years, I have watched in utter dismay as each of you have knowingly misled our community into believing that this fiscally fragile Orchestra is financially sound. Ignoring the obvious, I am amazed that none of you have expressed concern over the patent selfishness of your actions. Selfishness? Yes, selfishness. The practical effect of these self-aggrandizing “Pollyanna” proclamations of your “success” has been to mask the Orchestra’s dire financial crisis which has continued unabated since the Great Recession.

Nor will I allow you to escape the consequences of these actions by saying they belong with management. You, and each and everyone of you, as members of the Board of Directors are management. It is for the sake of convenience and pursuant to your by- laws that the day to day operations are delegated to the CEO. However, as any attorney who is familiar with shareholder litigation will tell you, the ultimate responsibility for the financial well-being of an organization rests with the Board of Directors.

Instead of dealing with the obvious, that on any given day your organization has a fiscal life-span that at best can be measured in weeks, I have watched the RPO engage in a self-imposed death spiral centered upon those whose only interest in Rochester’s most important cultural institution is a selfish and self-motivated drive to displace our highly acclaimed Music Director, Arild Remmereit.

Despite the use of secrecy oaths and the possible illegal overuse of so-called “executive sessions,” it is no secret in Rochester’s musical community that the overwhelming endeavor of the Board for the past eighteen months has been the removal of Maestro Remmereit. As the RPO financially burned, you have gleefully fiddled with sub-committees, evaluations and meditations all directed toward the removal of an individual who, if reviews are to be believed, is the finest Musical Director we have had the opportunity to employ since David Zinman.

Why is this so? No one far enough removed from the Board to see the big picture seems to understand. While I am aware that a list of “grievances” has been promulgated by the Board Chair, to my eye this list only serves to illustrate the incredible atmosphere of naiveté that apparently permeates the Board. Naiveté? Yes, naiveté for by and large you are all ignoring a fundamental fact. The man is a profoundly talented artist. I could spend the rest of my life citing artists like Debussy and Picasso that despite (or perhaps in spite) of their “social oddities,” performed their dedicated role of fulfilling the dreams of their audiences and patrons.

Does the Orchestra have issues with Maestro Remmereit? Ignoring for a moment that the CEO began to plant the seeds of discontent long before the Maestro first raised his baton, the real question is “how does it matter?” Employees are notoriously recalcitrant when pushed. I have attorneys at my firm who do not always agree with my assessment and strategy but in the end I, as is Maestro Remmereit, am responsible for the success of my firm. In my field success is measured by results, in his by reviews. Again, I feel that when faced with the final measure, I am compelled to stress that it is the audience who should, must, and has had the final say.

On September 30th, 2012, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran a story concerning the RPO’s fiscal and personnel woes. All of you know that not one line of that article was fabricated. With care and sensitivity, Stuart Low advised our community of the organization’s misgivings. Having been on the wrong side of the paper from time to time, I can understand your emotions. What I cannot understand is the Board Chair’s bizarre response.

The following week, the Board Chair directed what can only be described as a misguided assault on the few remaining members of the Board who have somehow managed to maintain a viable focus on the harsh realities of the Orchestra’s difficulties.

I have been made privy to some of the details of what in fact was a brutal assault on the character of our community leaders, and in my judgment, it was as disgusting as it was uncalled for.

In choosing as its course of action a witch hunt reminiscent of the McCarthy era, the Board lost a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin a sure and predictable path to financial recovery. Instead of publishing what was an unabashed and self-serving response the following Sunday, the Board should have, using the same format, utilized the energy created by Mr. Low’s article to go to the community and plead the case for additional and immediate funding. Instead of disputing the indisputable, you should have acknowledged the financial difficulties which were disclosed by the newspaper. This should have been accompanied by a sincere reaffirmation of support for the Maestro as a kick-off for a special drive with the goal of decreasing the RPO’s ever burgeoning deficit.

But alas and alack, in light of the Board’s latest actions concerning Maestro Remmereit, the opportunity has most certainly been lost, and due in large degree to the revolving management door discussed in Mr. Low’s article, the RPO is at best engaged in the most anemic fund-raising effort we have seen in years.

So much for the past, now how must we proceed?

In light of the Board’s most recent actions, it is painfully apparent that the continued survival of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will be dependent upon you and each of you immediately undertaking the following steps:

First, demand the immediate resignation of the Orchestra’s CEO, Charles Owens.

Second, demand the immediate resignation of Board Chair, Betsy Rice. As a result of the changes these two individuals have wrought, these first two steps are essential to regaining control of the organization and winning back public trust.

Third, demand the appointment of Keith Wilson as Interim Board Chair. Although I am not personally familiar with Mr. Wilson, it is well-known that he has the talent and support to bring about substantive change.

Fourth, demand the immediate recession of any and all actions previously undertaken to remove Music Director, Arild Remmereit.

Fifth, open an immediate dialogue with the Rochester Community including those community leaders who have been driven from the Board and face all in an open and frank request to come forward in a dramatic showing of financial support which we all know is critical to the survival of this organization.

In closing, it is my fondest hope that, for the sake of the RPO, the emotions this letter is certain to bring forth will find release in these positive actions as opposed to yet another useless and wasted personal attack.

Sincerely,

Edward L. Fiandach

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9 Comments
  1. Junko Mills permalink

    Thank GOD someone can put the whole event in English. Thank you SO MUCH Mr. Fiandach. I do not remember seeing this on D&C. Can you post it, please?

    • Ed Fiandach permalink

      It was never in the D&C, but thank-you for your kind words.

      Ed Fiandach

  2. Christina Arden permalink

    Ed, If you simultaneously sent this letter to Board and local media, why in heaven has it not seen the light of day?
    I congratulate you on a compelling and detailed description of this horrendous situation. Long as it is, every word is necessary to convey the severity of the situation. Perhaps this should be re-sent to City (which has run letters of less importance that are longer) and the Democrat and Chronicle in the New Year.
    I would hate to think that a group like this, that wishes the RPO musicians well, would have to come up with the money to BUY space in these periodicals.

    • Ed Fiandach permalink

      I’m sorry for the delay. As I said, this letter was sent to all Board Members, Honorary and otherwise. The only response I recieved was from Bill Eggers, who, experience dictates, acts as their spokesperson/hatchetman in matters such as this. He baselessly disputed my reason for leaving the Board and proceeded to tell me that “this is how sophistocated people do things”.

      Oh well, so much for sophistication!

  3. Junko Mills permalink

    I strongly second Christina Arden’s comment. That was my biggest question – why has not this been published in D&C? Please consider sending your letter to the City.

    • Christina Arden permalink

      Junko, As Ed explains in the first paragraph, this was sent to the media at the same time as it was conveyed to current and honorary Board members. I believe that Stuart Low incorporated a few quotes from it in his first major article on the RPO/Remmereit situation, but the D&C has never run it in full. Why City hasn’t run it at all is a question you should ask of their editor.

    • Ed Fiandach permalink

      This is correct. Stuart was provided with a copy as were several other media ooutlets.

      Ed

  4. M. Wendy Gwirtzman permalink

    Hi Ed…BRAVO!!!!!!…couldn’ agree more with you in every way…why has your letter not appeared in the Democrat?.My husband and I will be at the meeting Thursday eve. Hope to see you so I can thank you personally for your letter…I remember thinking you were a special young person way back in fourth grade at Iroquois school……wasn’t I right!!!! M. Wendy Gwirtzman

    • Ed Fiandach permalink

      Hi Wendy. Good to hear from you after so many years. Unfortunately we have a family committment Thursday and I cannot attend. I’d love to speak with you off line about this if possible.

      Ed

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