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Cleveland asks lawyers to investigate its concertmaster

August 16, 2018 by norman lebrecht

36 comments.


Just in from the Cleveland Orchestra:

We take the recent report of sexual misconduct allegations against concertmaster William Preucil very seriously. As previously indicated, we have suspended Mr. Preucil as of July 27, 2018.

The Board of Trustees has formed a special committee to conduct an independent investigation.  David J. Hooker (former Managing Partner of Thompson Hine LLP) is chair of the committee; Alexander Cutler (former Chair and CEO of Eaton Corporation), Stephen Hoffman (President of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland), Loretta J. Mester (President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland) and Beth E. Mooney (Chair and Chief Executive Officer KeyCorp) serve as members of the committee. They have selected Helen V. Cantwell and Arian M. June from the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to investigate Mr. Preucil’s tenure at The Cleveland Orchestra and any other matters that are raised in the course of Debevoise’s work. Upon the conclusion of the review, we will share the key findings.


Comments (36)

  1. Doug says:

    Let me ask a simple question: If laws were broken, why are the police not involved? Perhaps because the police see no laws broken? The police are involved in the Harvey Weinstein case. What makes this case so special?

    There is no need to report on anything uttered by this “committee” we already know the outcome. Unless, of course, the aim is to increase views through headlines testing with details of gossip.

    1. The View from America says:

      I’m sure daughter Alexandra Preucil will cheerfully take Mr. Preucil’s place in the violin section immediately after the report is issued, without missing a beat. That’s the way things are done at the Cleveland-Nepotism Orchestra.

    2. Jim says:

      To state the obvious, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a criminal offence to be inappropriate workplace conduct.

      1. Mark says:

        The problem is that “appropriateness” is in the eyes of the beholder. The law sets objective norms (or, at least, as objective as humanely possible)

        1. william osborne says:

          Any unwanted sexual touching is sexual assault in the eyes of the law. The alleged behavior in this case would fit this definition.

          1. Tamino says:

            Does it fit the description of sexual assault here?
            The story I read was, that the woman entered what is a common social pattern of interaction, escalating mutually toward sexual interaction.
            Specifically he asked her to join him, after some leisure time together in public, in his hotel room.
            If a woman agrees to that, it is commonly understood that she is at least interested to go further potentially.
            Once in the room, it is considered normal, that someone makes a move that involves physical touch.
            That by itself does not constitute assault yet.
            Assault would be, if the woman then decides to stop this normal social escalation spiral toward sexual intimacy, but the man ignores her and continues to escalate. That is not what happened here afaik.(?)

            It’s a slippery slope, we are going too far, we are ending up in a social climate of fear, where nobody will touch anyone anymore.

          2. william osborne says:

            I know of no laws that say women must acquiesce to sex if they enter a hotel room to talk to a colleague.

          3. Tamino says:

            What a strange, irrational, reply. I didn’t indicate any of that.
            But women who enter hotel rooms with men, who ask them to join them, can not act surprised, if said men make an advance. What kind of world are we living in? Is everybody officially insane by now?

    3. Bruce says:

      Sexual harassment is illegal. If they find it happened, it will be a matter for the police.

      The police are involved in the Weinstein case, but they had to be dragged into it kicking & screaming, long after it had become public.

      1. Quodlibet says:

        Weinstein has been charged with sexual assault, including first degree rape. That is quite different from sexual harassment, though he also engaged in that behavior.

        https://www.npr.org/2018/07/02/625330563/harvey-weinstein-charged-over-alleged-sex-crime-against-a-third-woman

        1. Bruce says:

          OK. Well, my point is that the police only became involved reluctantly, after lots of prodding.

          1. Tamino says:

            No, the police became involved, naturally, after criminal charges were pressed against Weinstein. No such charges have been pressed against Preucil AFAIK.

  2. David H Spence says:

    First of all, to play devil’s advocate here, what offense Preucil may have committed may have passed the statue of limitations, in regards to the potential of any police involvement. On the other hand, setting up a tony very well-heeled committee in part to include both the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is most likely not going to solve one effing thing, other than to rationalize everything away – and then Preucil gets to keep his job, no further questions asked.

    Not only though does one have the musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra involved in all this, one also has to keep in mind Cleveland brings in at least a few well esteemed guest artists and especially conductors through town, a few among the latter who may be a little more deserving of the work, come to think of it, than is Welser-Most.

    The rhetoric about the board, and with what precedent we have heard about, about the board taking the allegations seriously, can not amount to anything really more substantial than just a lot of sounding cymbals and brass. You, as both a city and at least previously well esteemed performing arts organization, guys, are simply not handling what is going on in the right way, lest showing those opposed to keeping Preucil some muscle is the right thing to be doing. Could you really in all earnest be really all that serious? Have not a few among us been around the block at least a few times?

    1. Quodlibet says:

      “First of all, to play devil’s advocate here, what offense Preucil may have committed may have passed the statue [sic] of limitations”

      That may be true in fact. However, there are other factors to consider.

      Suppose you own a business. You have just discovered that your accountant, who has been in your employ for 25 years, has been embezzling company funds for more than 20 years. She stopped doing it when she was found out, when other employees discovered the thefts and told you. When you took no action, they went to the police and called a local reporter. Now everyone knows.

      Are you going to shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well, whatever she did, may have passed the statute of limitations, therefore I’ll just let it go and not harm her career” and continue to employ her as your accountant, putting your company funds, future, and reputation at risk?

      No, you are correctly going to want to get this person out your business, and perhaps even get the police involved, even if the wrongful actions had taken place long ago, and perhaps you might even try to get your money back, and if your company has a board, then you will get them involved as well, for matters of oversight, transparency, reputation, and accountability. Right? Right?

      Why wouldn’t you apply the same thinking to a person in your organization who had been, at the very least, a disruptive presence, and at the worst, a sexual predator, upsetting or harming employees and customers and associates and bringing shame on your organization’s reputation, even if the actual incidents happened long ago, and regardless of which sort of law was broken (assault, harassment) or whether the statutes of limitations had or had not expired? Do you really want to retain that person in your organization? Are you going to be more concerned with that person’s reputation and career, or the success of your business, especially the well-being and productivity of your other employees, to whom you owe a safe workplace?

      And when word eventually gets out, as it always does, why would your customers or business partners want to associate with your organization, since it’s obvious by “statute of limitations” shrug that you don’t know how to manage your business properly?

      This is really not complicated or difficult. All of you who continue to make excuses for perpetrators, blame the victims, and proffer “statue of limitations” [sic!] as a get-out-of-jail-free card are part of the problem.

  3. william osborne says:

    If the Board were genuinely concerned about these matters they would have acted at least 11 years ago when Clevelandscene.com published an extensive article alleging similar problems concerning Pruecil. Instead, the WP article gave them a sudden change of attitude. The hypocrisy is apparent. And disgusting.

    The Board of Trustees select the investigators. As in all similar arts organizations, like the Met “investigating” Levine’s actuibs, these hyper-elites form a symbiotic relationship with the the hyper-elite arts organziation, a mutually self-serving assertion and reinforcement of extremely high status and steep social hierarchies.

    It is thus unlikely that the investigators will be truly autonomous. The protection of the steep social hierarchies symbolized by the hyper-elite orchestra will be the underlying principle of the investigation. In essence, it is a process of cleansing the institutions that symbolize and reinforce the power of our social Brahmans.

    These steep hierarchies are essential to capitalistic societies. The irony that one of the Board members in charge of the investigation is actually a Chairperson of the Federal Reserve is truly rich.

    This is, of course, nothing new. Feudalistic Europe was especially notable for its use of art to assert and reinforce power. From the crown of Charlemagne to the Versailles Palace of the Sun King to the literature glorifying British colonialism, the purpose of European art was often to celebrate and strengthen the power and authority of people who thought themselves the recipients of natural superiority.

    The problem is that art is messy, so the elites often have to sanitize it. Even if Pruecil is thrown under the bus, the whiff of something unsavory will remain.

    1. william osborne says:

      The more Cleveland turns into a massive, white-flight, Rustbelt ghetto, the more urgent it becomes for the elite to perfume the massive urban hovel with an elite orchestra. The city can’t be culturally adventurous because it’s too busy trying to prevent total collapse at every level. It thus turns to propping up its rickety cultural legacy instead of looking to the future. More of the American disaster.

      1. Mark J Henriksen says:

        “Rickety cultural legacy”? Cleveland has of the best orchestras in the world with a $200 million endowment. Facts plus logic are the backbone of intelligent opinions; preferable reading, for me, than the rants from a bitter expat.

        1. william osborne says:

          Indeed, the facts speak. 23% of the families in Cleveland are below the poverty line — one in four. 37.6% of those under the age of 18 are below the poverty line — over one in three. According to the organization Seeds of Literacy 66% of the city’s population is functionally illiterate, i.e. can’t read at a fourth grade level. That’s two out three. Due to racism and white flight only 35% of the city is non-Hispanic white. Like many urban areas in the USA, dehumanizing ghettos cover a massive area of the city. Denial by the general populace is one of the principle factors that prevent these problems from being solved.

          It is a simple fact that stresses like these force American cities into a kind of survival mode and prevent them from confidently moving toward the future. Many like Cleveland can barely even maintain their basic infrastructure. There is no city in America which uses its orchestra more to camouflage these sorts of problems than Cleveland. Hence the pressing need to sanitize the recent damage to its reputation.

          1. Sharon says:

            Then where do they get the money to support the Orchestra and the audience? Also, where is the theater. In these ghettos the elite are reluctant to go downtown at night (unless “downtown” is strictly a business district) if the parking is not part of the cultural complex or directly under the auditorium

          2. Tamino says:

            Sharon, your first question is very cynical. They get the money from the moneyed elite, “trickle down”, because that’s how it works in the mother of all plutocracies, the US.

          3. Gaffney Feskoe says:

            Severance Hall ,where the Cleveland Orchestra performs, is not located downtown but in the University Heights section of town. It is situated in a park like setting and the splendid Cleveland Museum of Art is located a short stroll away. It must be said that downtown Cleveland in recent years has been attractively redeveloped with several handsome new buildings and renovated older ones.
            This is not to dispute the depressing statistics about Cleveland’s demographic which you reference but to point out that the city is not today the disaster it was several decades ago. It is definitely worth a visit.

          4. william osborne says:

            Yes, these efforts are commendable, but the deep contrasts and steep social hierarchies remain before our eyes. Europeans view the city itself as the greatest and most complete expression of the human mind and spirit. Venice, Florence, Rome, Prague, Amsterdam, Dresden, Barcelona and Paris, just to name a few, are all imbued with this ideal.

            Americans, by contrast, long behaved as if they had lost hope in their cities. They saw them as dangerous and inhuman urban wastelands to be abandoned for the suburbs. Classical music is one of the most urban of art forms. Its status will always be measured by the health and vibrancy of our cities. And orchestras will always be held up as symbols of urban vitality regardless of how false and hypocritical that image might be.

            Still, I wish the people of Cleveland every success in rebuilding their city.

          5. Antonia says:

            I lived just south of Cleveland for 7 years and really love this city. Playhouse Square, University Circle with its annual Winterfest at which my eldest child, now a professional pedal harpist, first laid eyes on a harp, the Powerhouse, the Rock Hall of Fame, the beautiful “emerald necklace” Metroparks system including the excellent zoo…What a wonderful city. Would love to have stayed there instead of come to New Jersey. Plus, the people of Cleveland are so nice. Not like here…”In-your-face” rude and ill-tempered. Cleveland folks are polite, friendly, and entirely wonderful. I’d move back in an instant.

    2. Vaquero357 says:

      Got off on a tangent much? These committees are formed just to give a stamp of approval to what the board and management have already done: fired da bum.

      When has one of these “investigative” bodies of prominent and sober citizens come back and said, “Nope, the guy didn’t do it. Reinstate him to his job.” Um yeah.

      William Preucil is done at the Cleveland Orchestra.

      And yes, Cleveland has had tough economic times, like all manufacturing-based cities in the U.S. Things were really, really bad in the 1970s. New industries have come in to replace the defunct ones, the local economy is better than it had been, and Cleveland is by no means a terrible place to live.

      1. william osborne says:

        Yes, they will likely confirm that Pruecil behaved improperly. They will say little about why the orchestra tolerated this for decades.

        And quite true, there has been improvement in US cities since the 70s, but the situation is still far worse than in any other developed country — as the numbers I mention above illustrate.

        1. Saxon Broken says:

          Sigh…you should think about what happened to Glasgow and Liverpool, to look at two major British cities. They lost over a third of their population. Urban decay is not unique to the US.

          And Venice is little more than a theme park.

  4. Quodlibet says:

    PSA/IANAL/USA perspective:

    Many commenters here are confused, ill-informed, or just unaware of the differences between illegal behaviours (e.g., sexual assault) and violations of workplace policy (e.g., sexual harassment).

    Sexual assault may be defined in different ways depending on the jurisdiction. And there are different degrees of sexual assault and/or battery, from unwanted touching to actual penetrative rape. And the statute of limitations will vary in different jurisdictions.

    It is a very sad fact that victims of sexual assault have typically been dismissed, disbelieved, ridiculed, harassed, assaulted again, fired, ignored, and silenced. This “blame the victim” aspect of our culture not only discourages victims from reporting assaults, it also puts them at risk for further, prolonged misery. Only recently have victims of sexual assault been more able to report these crimes and obtain legal and societal support. (Thus #MeToo) So for all of you who say “It happened 15/20/25/100 years ago; why didn’t s/he report it THEN instead of ruining Maestro Celebrity’s life now??!!” the fact is that all those years ago, reporting an assault often created more problems for the victim. The highly variable statutes of limitations make it very difficult for victims to obtain judicial or societal acknowledgement of crimes that took place years ago.

    Sexual assault is illegal, and we have laws and courts to address and respond to sexual assault. Employers do not need to duplicate legal prohibitions against sexual assault, in the same way that they do not need to duplicate laws against murder or larceny – if actual crimes occur in the workplace, the police are (or should be) called in.

    Not all objectional sexual behavior is sexual assault. Often if is better understood as sexual harassment: lewd comments, unwanted attention, coercion related to workplace activities that is imbued with a sexual overtone or make specific sexual demands. Sexual harassment may also include sexual assault (e.g., unwanted touching), but because of the hard-to-define coercive element, perpetrators often claim that the victim consented to whatever happened. Sexual harassment often manifests as harassment or coercion exacted by one who is in a position of authority over or against toward one who is under that authority. Often this is in a workplace context (e.g., music director and orchestral musician; executive director and marketing assistant), but it can also exist in a teacher/student relationship or in a mentor/mentee relationship. As with sexual assault, victims of sexual harassment are discouraged from speaking up. They are often held responsible and blamed for the harassment: they are told to grow a thicker skin, wear different clothes, don’t be alone with that person (private lessons??!!), get used to it, accept it because of the perpetrator’s celebrity status, if you make a fuss it will hurt ticket sales, etc., etc.

    Because sexual harassment is often related to differentials of power and status, it is also a workplace concern. This is why responsible employers have sexual harassment policies in place, not only to protect their employees, but to protect themselves and to limit their liability. (Liability insurers are keenly interested in this issue – I worked in that field for many years, in industrial risk management.)

    So when, for example, an orchestral conductor engages in sexual harassment of an orchestral musician, this is a matter of workplace discipline, and not necessarily a violation of the law (depending on what actions took place). It is not always a matter for the police or for legal recourse. Statues of limitations apply to laws, not to workplace policies. An employer may decide that an employee’s inappropriate behavior, even if decades old, can be grounds for dismissal, such as if allegations cause bad press, declining ticket sales, declining donations. There is no requirement of “evidence” and there are no statues of limitations as there are with public laws. An employer establishes the conditions of employment and can define the standards of behaviour for its employees.

    ——–

    It seems that a great number of “old” stories about sexual assault and harassment are coming out of the woodwork, not only in music, but across the social spectrum. This is because victims are no longer willing to suffer in silence, and they are speaking up now not only to seek redress (or even acknowledgement!) but to try to effect changes that will prevent others from being victimized. The current #MeToo movement is but a sforzando in a long crescendo of assertiveness and justice-seeking.

    Many commenters here seem very concerned that the lives and careers of the alleged perpetrators have been “ruined” by long-concealed stories of harassment and assault that are finally coming to light. All the cries for “evidence!” and “statues of limitations” are just not relevant in workplace harassment charges. And that’s what most of these are.

    1. Quodlibet says:

      Addendum

      Sexual harassment is illegal and is generally considered as an employment law issue. This is why employers have to take responsibility for dealing with it, just as they need to deal with workplace safety and fair labor issues.

      “Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

      1. Tamino says:

        Uhmm, the stories were private interactions as far as we know?
        Preucil was spending time after work with some women and asked them to come to his hotel room and they did follow him there. Right?
        Where does employment law enter this equation?

        1. Quodlibet says:

          Your comment reveals profound ignorance. Please understand that I say this not as a personal denigration, but to point out the societal ignorance on these issues. It’s astonishing.

          Not all work interactions take place in an actual physical workplace. If, for example, a musician is engaged to serve as a teacher, mentor, jurist, etc., then whenever and wherever he or she is engaged in duties related to those jobs is “the workplace.” Could be a restaurant, practice room, office, meeting room, rehearsal room, sidewalk conversation, etc. The point is not the PLACE, it’s the relationship, where those in power use their power to coerce, intimidate, harass, etc.

          And though sexual harassment is generally defined and addressed in employment law (perhaps because the first cases emerged in the workplace?), it is not solely an employment issue. It can happen anywhere, and is especially a problem where there is a differential of power or status.

          Really, it seems alarming that in 2018 so many people remain unaware of what constitutes sexual harassment, coercion, etc. etc. It’s not that difficult, it really isn’t. Try doing some research; read some objective sources; read the stories of those who have been brave enough to come forward. Sexual harassment can poison one’s life – and I know from personal experience. Harassers know damn well that what they are doing is wrong; they do it for the power play and because they know they can get away with it, because our culture still blames and dismisses the victims and excuses the perpetrators.

          1. Saxon Broken says:

            Quodlibet:

            I think you are being overly generous. Some of the people on here aren’t so much ignorant of the difference between illegal conduct and poor conduct that breaches employment conditions. Some of them are, to my mind, mendacious.

  5. Sharon says:

    In a related development Levine just changed his attorney. Wonder why? Perhaps because the attorney is so frustrated that Levine refuses to settle?

    I am reading all the e filed documents in the case and although I am not a lawyer it seems to me that Levine has a very strong breach of contract case but a very weak defamation case yet it still appears that the most important issue to Levine is to clear his name.

    Anyway if I understand the calendar for this case correctly even a date for a trial, if it, G*d forbid, gets that far, will not be set until next March. The judge seems to be doing everything possible to prevent a jury trial from happening but Levine may insist on the opportunity to confront his accusers, especially, if with his confidentiality agreement, he can do it behind, or partially behind, closed doors.

    1. Vaquero357 says:

      Thanks for the update, Sharon. Links to the docs in question?

      1. Sharon says:

        NY Courts then e trak, then e filed documents. You may have to register (it’s free) on the site.

      2. Sharon Beth says:

        For accessing the documents on the Levine case, to be more specific
        1. Google NYCourts
        2.Click e-Track
        3 Log in (the website will prompt you on this)
        4. Enter the encryption (prove that you are not a robot) number click
        5. On the side of the screen click WebCivilSupreme
        6. Click “I agree”
        7. Click Party Search
        8. In “Party Name” enter Phramus (Levine’s company
        9 In the next box scroll to New York Supreme Court
        10 In the box under that Scroll to 2018 Click
        11. This will bring you to the case itself Click on the index number
        12. Scroll to the end of the attorney list for the case and click on efiled documents

  6. MacroV says:

    It seems a strangely high-powered group; wouldn’t a good law firm suffice? A number of institutions have hired either a law firm or a celebrity like George Mitchell or Louis Freeh to investigate when misdeeds occur, and they’re not always whitewashes, so give them a chance.

    But I would agree with a poster above that they should probably have done this 11 years ago.


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