Back in November, I had written about allegations of harassment by the administration of the Cleveland Ballet of one of their teachers due to body weight issues. I thought that would more or less be the last time I wrote about that particular accusation. However, the results of the investigation by the ballet board has turned into a lesson about boards exercising better organizational oversight.
According to a recent news story, the CEO, Michael Krasnyansky, was essentially forced to resign when the board investigation started and credible accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching emerged stretching back over the course of years.
His wife and artistic director, Gladisa Guadalupe, was just fired after the investigation by the law firm Jones Day uncovered a culture of intimidation and retribution that aimed to obstruct the investigation and a wide range of issues related to financial impropriety and self-dealing.
From the Jones Day report:
-Description by Ms. Guadalupe of complaining dancers as “moles” or “troublemakers” and stating that once the investigation was over, “we will handle the troublemakers.”
-Proposal to lay oﬀ employees suspected of communicating with news media.
-Altering Nutcracker cast assignments to the detriment of dancers suspected of cooperating with the investigation.
-Dismissing from the Cleveland School of Dance faculty dancers who cooperated with the investigation.
-Commingling of funds of Ballet and Cleveland School of Dance, which are separate entities.
-Cleveland School of Dance expenses improperly paid by the Ballet.
-Ballet funds used to pay for personal expenses of Mr. Krasnyansky or Ms. Guadalupe, including personal car insurance, travel, meals, and lodging.
-Restricted donations used to pay for current operating expenses rather than the restricted purpose designated by the donor.
-Signiﬁcant amounts of endowment donations used for current operating expenses but booked as expenses for the 2023 endowment campaign event
To add a degree of insult to injury, when the the interim artistic director who stepped in when Krasnyansky and Guadalupe were suspended in November was accused of plagiarizing the choreography for the Ballet’s Nutcracker production and ultimately stepped down herself.
When thinking about how this situation could have been avoided, you run into the question of balancing micromanagement by the board with the board exercising appropriate oversight. I suspect that on paper, policies and procedures were in place to avoid the misuse of funds, but the culture of intimidation magnified by the top leadership being married may have made staff reluctant or unable to enforce them.
Similarly, it sounds like it would have been difficult to conduct an investigation or even regular check-in conversations with the dancers about their perceptions of the work environment in the face of the pressure to keep quiet that was being brought to bear.
By no means am I excusing what happened. I am just observing that in hindsight, it is easy to say the board should have been paying more attention. It is difficult to identify what measures they could have put in place which would have provided them with accurate, honest reporting about the state of the the organization given the effort of obfuscate. The Jones Day report said despite all they discovered, they had repeatedly been denied access to most of the materials and records they requested so there are likely other issues which have remained uncovered.