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Why did one orchestra not tell another of its manager’s criminal record?

Recriminations are still running high over the sacking of the New Jersey Symphony’s chief exec, Richard Dare, after just nine days in the job.

The reason for the dismissal was ‘information that had emerged about his background’, specifically an early conviction for ‘an attempted lewd act’ with a 15 year old girl who became at 18, and remains, his wife.

New Jersey are now saying that Dare deceived them. They add that his former employer, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, refused to return repeated calls for a standard check on the references that Dare had given.

That charge, if true, amounts at the very least to bad collegial behaviour by Brooklyn Phil. The League of American Orchestras should look into it.

Richard Dare

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Comments

  1. At the large companies I’ve worked at in the US we could only confirm position and salary, with their consent. We could not talk about their work, good or bad. No “character references”.

  2. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    The Brooklyn Phil chose not to respond to the reference request. That in itself should have sent strong signals to NJS. In a litigious society like the USA, Brooklyn might have been in danger of a suit from the NJS candidate unless the accusations were a matter of public record at the time of the request. IMHO, Brooklyn chose the best path for its organization. The burden here is on the candidate to tell the truth and on the hiring organization to do its homework. I’m not sure what LAO can add to this discussion.

  3. If Brooklyn knew Dare had been convicted of a “lewd acts,” which is a matter of public record, they could have said so without reasonable fear of lawsuits. LAO is an advocacy organization to promote orchestral culture. It is generally not involved with professional ethics, especially in such a specific instance. That might fall more within the purview of ICSOM and ROPA, though they also would probably not involve themselves with the topic of background checks of administrators unless the rights of orchestra members were somehow in question. Dare’s past with his “child-bride” is troubling, and he shouldn’t have exaggerated his resume (as if that were uncommon,) but I wonder if these issues have been brought up to gain an advantage in a conflict that has other causes.

  4. Mark Stratford says:

    NYT has more background. Looks ilke Dare had been over-selling his business background.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/arts/music/new-jersey-symphony-president-richard-dare-quits.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    • This article makes it clear that the orchestra DID know about the “attempted lewd acts” case before Dare was hired. So it wasn’t something Brooklyn needed to tell them. The article also notes that the attempted lewd acts case was dismissed in 1999 and that Dare’s probation was cut short by a year. It was only after he started the job that some of the donors learned of the situation and objected to his employment, which resulted in his being fired.

      This situation raises interesting (and difficult) questions about if, how, and when sex offenders should be allowed to re-enter society and released from the stigma of their past.

      [redacted]

      • How about…when the case gets dismissed or when they have served the sentence given to them by the judicial system?

        The situation does indeed raise interesting questions though – like, why is it you make yourself the high priest of moral judgment anything like this comes up?

  5. Hilary B. Miller says:

    As Steve correctly points out, many US employers do not provide character references with respect to their erstwhile employees. However, US law provides nearly complete immunity fro, civil suit for employers who offer truthful references, however unpleasant, And the same applies to opinions which turn out to be misinformed but were nevertheless held in good faith. In general, US law is far more protective of truthful, harmful speech than UK law. The term we use is “qualified privilege” to refer to the right of employers to exchange information with one another about prospective employees. Many employers do not understand this principle and are unwilling to take the risk of making truthful disclosures regarding the negative performances of former employees. Something employers also enter into nondisclosure agreements with terminated employees as part of their severance arrangements.

    • Grant Barnes says:

      Re Steve and Hilary’s comments: Each state and territory of the United States has its own labor law, and details of one state’s law can differ significantly from another’s. Speaking specifically about California, the relevant statute states simply: “Any person, or agent or officer thereof, who, after having discharged an employee from the service of such person or after an employee has voluntarily left such service, by any misrepresentation prevents or attempts to prevent the former employee from obtaining employment, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” (Cal. Lab. C. 1050)

      Similarly, the New York State Department of Labor Fact Sheet advises: “The law allows an employer to give you a negative reference, as long as the information they provide is accurate. Many companies make it a policy not to provide references, good or bad, and will only give dates of employment and job title. This is not a law in New York or any other state.”

      Accordingly, there isn’t any requirement for a past employer to give any reference whatsoever, and to avoid even specious litigation, the Human Resources Departments of larger companies are generally advised only to provide the dates of employment. That being said, most companies require background checks on their potential employees — credit history, civil judgments, felony convictions, etc. — that are contracted to for-profit companies; showing that traditional privacy concerns are being radically modified, an individual’s “rap sheet” (listing arrests and even allegations of complainants, etc.) is now similarly available through a Google search, despite states’ laws restricting it only to certainly public sector employees.

      U.S. law is generally consistent about what things cannot be asked about in the employment context. For example, the NYS Fact Sheet advises: “Someone who interviews you for a job should not ask you
      questions about:
      - Age
      - Race
      - Creed
      - Color
      - National origin
      - sexual orientation
      - Veteran/military status
      - Gender
      - Marital/family status
      - Disability
      - Arrests not followed by conviction
      They cannot base hiring decisions on these factors. We recognize, and our laws declare, that it is a civil right
      for persons to have the chance to get a job without discrimination due to these factors.”

  6. I am sorry, but a basic google search turns up the conviction (even prior to the NJSO scandal).

    It seems like the sex scandal was actual a “graceful” exit compared to the business/financial scandal (he made up a good portion of his resume) – which the Times was in the process of uncovering.

    And in agreeing with some of the other commenters, in this litigious day and age, it is dangerous to speak badly of a person in a professional reference. Even if the statement is true, it could embroil the organization in lawsuits for years to come. Unless the organization specifically has a no-reference policy, silence = a negative evaluation of the person.

    As a side note – as the NJSO has had two major scandals in the last decades (acquisition of over-appraised instruments and now Dare), it seems that they are a bit too eager to jump at the bit. They get a “dream offer” and don’t do their due-diligence.

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