RPO board member subpoenaed to testify in court
09:53 PM, Jan 31, 2013
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has hired Arild Remmereit to lead concerts on Nov. 2 and 3 with pianist Yakov Kasman. The program features three Wagner preludes and Prokofievs Piano Concerto No. 2.
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra board vice chairman Patrick Burke has been subpoenaed to reveal how the RPO scheduled its annual meeting.
Rochester lawyer Eileen Buholtz hopes to invalidate the RPO members’ meeting and board election that were held on Jan. 23. If a judge approves a new annual meeting, Buholtz and an RPO supporters’ group will put up an alternate slate of board candidates.
The group is upset at the RPO board’s decision to fire the orchestra’s music director, Arild Remmereit, and at the RPO’s deficit, which was more than $700,000 last fiscal year.
At the meeting on Jan. 23, members voted in a slate of eight uncontested board members. The pro-Remmereit group had tried to get an alternate slate on the ballot.
“We’re prepared for the hearing on Monday and are confident in the outcome,” said RPO spokesman Mark Berry.
Burke will be asked to testify about a single deadline: Dec. 21, the final date to qualify as an RPO member. Only people who contributed at least $75 between Jan. 1 and Dec. 21, 2012, were eligible to attend the annual meeting, according to the board’s meeting notice.
Buholtz maintains that a unanimous vote by the board’s executive committee was needed to set the Dec. 21 cut-off date. She maintains that Burke didn’t vote, invalidating the decision.
“We plan to put this before a judge,” she said.
Gordon Forth, Burke’s Rochester attorney, said that Burke, who also is a Democrat and Chronicle columnist, would comply with the subpoena.
“We don’t have any document indicating that he signed anything about the meeting date,” Forth said.
On Monday, Buholtz will appear for a second time before Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Kenneth R. Fisher. On Jan. 23, he turned down her request to adjourn the annual meeting. But at that time, he agreed to hear again her arguments that the board didn’t properly set a cut-off date or follow procedures allowing for write-in candidates.
The RPO board in November had voted to end Remmereit’s contract in August, two years early. On Jan. 24, the board voted again, this time to terminate his contract immediately.
On Thursday, 13 RPO musicians issued a signed statement in support of Remmereit.
“We share your hopes and vision of a new and exciting future for the RPO,” they wrote. “Thank you … for engendering a renewed enthusiasm in our audiences.”