Exclusive: US orchestra faces $15m lawsuit over abuse of ex-CEO

Exclusive: US orchestra faces $15m lawsuit over abuse of ex-CEO

News

norman lebrecht

February 18, 2022

Anne Berquist, a French administrator formerly of the Chatelet in Paris, lasted just over six months as Executive Director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, before she was fired last month.

In court papers served this week, she details a campaign of deception that led to her taking the job, followed by a blizzard of harrassment that persisted until her health was in ruins and she could no longer sleep.

Most of the charges are directed at Mrs Jeri Crawford, president of the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

From the indictment:

69. Following the October 17 Meeting, Mrs. Crawford began a concerted campaign
of retaliatory conduct against Ms. Berquist with the manifest intent of causing Ms. Berquist to be
removed from the Position (the “Retaliatory Conduct”).
70. To the contrary, approximately one month after the Start Date, Mrs. Crawford
telephonically communicated with Ms. Smith, praising Ms. Berquist’s performance in the
Position and the improvement of the LVP’s financial health as a result of Ms. Berquist’s efforts.
71. In a news article published June 16, 2021, discussing Ms. Berquist’s hiring, Mrs.
Crawford was quoted as saying, “I am pleased with [Ms. Berquist]’s contributions to the [LVP]
in the few short weeks that [Ms. Berquist] has been here. [Ms. Berquist] embraced this team and
this opportunity immediately and we look forward to an exciting chapter under [Ms. Berquist’s]
leadership[.]”
72. The Retaliatory Conduct included, without limitation, fairly consistent and
systematic verbal abuse of Ms. Berquist by Mrs. Crawford during business hours, as well as
frequent, invective-laden targeted phone calls to Ms. Berquist from Mrs. Crawford (often well
after business hours) with the manifest intent to harass and inflict stress upon Ms. Berquist by
unduly indicting Ms. Berquist’s performance in the Position.
73. The Retaliatory Conduct included, without limitation, the subversion of Ms.
Berquist’s jurisdiction in the Position under the structure of the By-Laws, through, without
limitation, Mrs. Crawford’s systematic efforts to sabotage Ms. Berquist’s professional
performance by unilaterally changing the job descriptions of the LVP staff members recently
hired by Ms. Berquist (the “Staff Members”).
74. The Retaliatory Conduct included, without limitation, the subversion of Ms.
Berquist’s jurisdiction in the Position under the structure of the By-Laws, through, without
limitation, Mrs. Crawford’s interference with Ms. Berquist’s performance of the Berquist
Responsibilities by meeting with the Staff Members without Ms. Berquist’s consent and/or
involvement (the “Undermining Meetings”).
75. The Retaliatory Conduct included, without limitation, the subversion of Ms.
Berquist’s jurisdiction in the Position under the structure of the By-Laws, through, without
limitation, Mrs. Crawford’s interference with Ms. Berquist’s performance of the Berquist
Responsibilities through Mrs. Crawford’s frequent overruling of Ms. Berquist’s assignments
and/or instructions to the Staff Members without Ms. Berquist’s consent and/or involvement (the
“Undermining Staff Directives”)….

And more.

Vegas, huh?

 

 

Comments

  • drummerman says:

    This happens everywhere Norman, not just Last Vegas. Board members feel they have the right to abuse staff members. Glad to see this exposed publicly. Brava to Ms. Berquist for doing this. I hope she gets the $15 million.

    • Paula says:

      No kidding – I had this happen to me too. It needs to stop; especially to those who are just starting out their careers in the executive director field. I wish I would have had the strength to sue like Ms. Berquist. I hope she wins. No job pays enough to excuse this type of abuse.

    • Bette middler says:

      You’re an idiot if you think she should get $15 million. The sheer fact that she’s suing for that much is laughable and tells me it’s an exaggeration of the events. Good luck getting $15 million from any orchestra much less a small fry like Las Vegas. Even if she won it, they don’t have it to pay! Lol
      Fun fact, it isn’t until paragraph…. Wait for it…… 69…… That the substance of her lawsuit comes out and talk s of removing her from the position. Lol.

      • Paula says:

        Bettie: I’m sure it’s not an exaggeration. I have been there; freaky freaky board members with nothing to do in retirement but twiddle thumbs and strum up drama by micromanaging executives of the non-profits. There should be an “a-hole” personality exam before people can become board members. No, seriously. Scenario questions on how you would react w the ED during certain scenarios. The abuse needs to stop.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      Spot on, drummerman. This is one of the main reasons so many good people leave the field. Boards don’t want to raise money so instead they micromanage. Lots of society women who have never had a job and corporate assholes who think they know everything.

  • Walid Addad says:

    The fruitful efforts of two great personalities, Daniel Barnbaum and the Late great thinker Edward Saied.

  • Peter Bassano says:

    Changes in the management structures of a couple of London orchestras show them following their US cousins. The plutocrats are influencing artistic decisions often at the cost of music.

  • Emery says:

    Well, let’s hear from Madame Crawford…

  • George Daugherty says:

    Norman, please do not demean Las Vegas. That is unfair. When is the last time you were here? Las Vegas/Metropolitan Clark County (which is one city) is a thriving and rapidly expanding metropolis of 2.2 million people, with a vibrant cultural, arts, musical, and culinary scene much of which has absolutely nothing to do with The Strip. So please do not perpetuate old and antiquated stereotypes that no longer apply. The Smith Center is one of the most extraordinary and exciting performing arts centers in America. The very talented and passionate conductor Donato Cabrera has brought The Las Vegas Philharmonic a long way in a very short time . . . their season-long Beethoven retrospective of this year is garnering rave reviews. The Nevada Ballet Theatre thrives, and offers a full season with a large company of professional dancers. There is a huge community of artists, directors, musicians, choreographers, dancers, conductors, visual artists, and more who happily live here. We have museums, one of which is affiliated with The Smithsonian. I myself am proud to call Las Vegas home, as I fly out of here to conduct major symphony orchestras all over the world. Although, not that there is anything wrong whatsoever with the entertainment on The Strip, whose cutting-edge productions employ more professional dancers, musicians, singers, performers, choreographers, directors, and other artists than any other city in the U.S., with the possible exception of New York City. Disagreements between symphony orchestra board members and executives are hardly exclusive to Las Vegas, as you well know because you have reported on so many others of them. So it’s not necessary to demean an entire city.

  • Vladimir Fet says:

    “Indictment” is the wrong term here. It should be “complaint.”

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Does this orchestra even have an annual budget of $15 million? Doubtful.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      This is essentially a community orchestra that plays one or two concerts a month. Its annual budget is probably closer to $150,000.

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    One does have to wonder why someone would trade the Chatelet for the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

  • drummerman says:

    Mark Twain once wrote: “In the beginning God created idiots. That was for practice. Then he created school boards.” Substitute “symphony boards” for “school boards” and it sounds right to me.

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