Just in: Conservatoire chief is fired over credit card expenses

Just in: Conservatoire chief is fired over credit card expenses


norman lebrecht

July 02, 2015

When word of Karl Kramer’s resignation as dean of the Sydney Conservatorium was slipped out at the dead of night before a long weekend, Slipped Disc suspected that something murky was afoot.

Sure enough, it is now reported that Karl was asked to leave after a discrepancy was found on his corporate credit card.

That, however, is still not half the story.

The discrepancy is for just A$5,000 (US$3,800), of which A$1,000 covers a ‘lavish’ meal he threw for staff.

Small change. There are other reasons behind his forced resignation.

The Con is still covering up.

karl kramer


  • william osborne says:

    Karl Kramer is a proven and gifted administrator. He’s headed distinguished music schools at SUNY Purchase and the U. of Illinois. That an issue was made of a small discrepancy on a credit card looks more like the usual music school intrigues and melodramas. Sayre’s law again: academic infighting is so nasty because the stakes are so small.

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    I agree with William Osborne. A “lavish” meal costing $1000 for staff (how many, 1 or 12?) is hardly shocking. If he spent $100/person for a staff of 10 including wine, tax and tip, I would hardly call that “lavish” in a city like Sydney.

    I know a departing dean who treated his senior staff of 4 (5 including the dean) to a “lavish” meal that cost $700 including wine, tax and tip in one of the most expensive cities in the America. The dean charged the meal to his personal card in that case. The dean had every right to ask the school to pay for the meal but chose not to do that. The school would have approved the expense without flinching.

    This is a slippery slope since most music executives in higher education have a T & E allowance (clearly stated on the 990 tax form available through Guidestar.org). This can often rise $25,000 (USD) and higher per year especially if the school is in a fund-raising campaign.

    Whatever the reasons for Dr. Kramer’s decision to leave the Sydney Con, they are hardly of cosmic consequence to the art of music. Give the guy a break.

    I wish him “bonne chance…bon vent” for future endeavors even if it is just that noble occupation of retirement.

    • Expat Looking on in horror says:

      Clearly there’s more here than meets the eye but anyone who fiddles expenses deserves to be exposed. However, it’s obvious from the emails in the Sydney Morning Herald’s article that ‘2K’s management style leaves a lot to be desired. Am I alone in thinking that a so-called ‘brass chamber specialist’ is not quite what the Con needs or deserves? Academe is a toxic profession but Australia can do better!

      • John Porter says:

        What’s the point of questioning Kramer’s experience as a chamber musician? Is bring a brass chamber musician some sort of lowly status? He had a pretty sizable career in that field, but he earned his stripes at University of Illinois and Purchase. He’s immensely respected. This who thread is lamentable…

  • John Porter says:

    Karl Kramer has proven himself as a senior administrator and performing musician. The Con is notorious for infighting. Did you cover the shenanigans of his predecessor? Presidents, Deans, etc., don’t get fired over expense issues like this. Anyone who thinks so is not only naive, but they no nothing about how such places are run. Discrepancies are handled all the time whereby financial administrators reject the expense and if it is truly something you cannot expense, you have to pay for it yourself. It’s standard operating procedure. Clearly, it’s the beginning of some sort of smear campaign upon Kramer’s departure. They were lucky to have someone of his quality.

  • James Arnon says:

    I’m sorry, I’m not sure who here has worked in the public service or in public administration in Australia, or is familiar with the obligations imposed upon public servants, but $5000 is not a negligible amount to be misappropriating. And it seems that KK listed people as being present at the dinner who were not in the same country at the time — he wasn’t shouting anyone dinner necessarily. I think the probity of the Australian public service is being unfairly maligned here, but never let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory. It was open to Mr Kramer to challenge his dismissal or the findings against him by legal means. Perhaps this comment might be published? I don’t think my judgment is pompous or preposterous.