Questions swirl around San Diego Opera closure

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Opera employees have growing suspicions over what they say is a contractual severance payout of more than $1 million to Opera CEO Ian Campbell.
 
Sources, who asked to remain anonymous, told 10News Campbell’s severance package is “extensive,” and claim the severance would entitle him to “years of getting paid.”

The San Diego Opera announced last week that it would close following the end of its 2014 season in April due to serious budget problems.
 
Employees on and off stage, along with their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, are demanding financial records, letters, emails, and bank statements from the opera.  The union filed a claim Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board.  

Union members suspect Campbell -- who has been with the Opera for 30 years -- was financially motivated to close it. Neither Campbell nor his consultant, Peter MacCracken, would answer questions Thursday regarding the terms of his contract or suspicions over the allegations of possible ulterior financial motives.
 
"We are now referring all media inquiries to Board President Karen S. Cohn," MacCracken said in an email to 10News today.

Cohn also denied requests for an interview Thursday.
 
According to tax records, Campbell’s annual salary was $508,000 in 2012. Campbell's wife, Ann, was also on the payroll. She made $282,345 that same year.
 
"The decision was terribly difficult for everyone," Campbell said in a March 20 interview. "Less money for me doesn't keep the organization alive."

In asking for financial information, the union representing opera employees - including at least 25 solo singers - is questioning whether board members had all the information they needed before voting to close the opera.
 
"We would try to close with dignity and give our money to the people who deserved it," Campbell said in the March 20 interview.
 
Campbell claimed the recession caused dwindling audience and diminishing donations. He said he saw the opera's financial troubles coming three years ago.
 
The opera has $15 million remaining in accounts, according to records obtained by 10News, but Campbell has said it would need a $100 million one-time donation to stay in production.
 
Meanwhile, the only board member to oppose stopping operations, David Kleinfeld, provided the following statement to 10News:

“We have a solemn responsibility as the custodians of timeless opera, the highest art form, and to our city, its future generations, and the countless families who depend on our company for our livelihoods.
The company has terrific employees who give their all, some devoting their entire working lives to San Diego Opera.  

“The manner in which the issue and decision were raised and executed prevented us from giving our best to perform that solemn responsibility.  They deserve nothing short of our best.”


The Opera will stage four performances of Massenet's "Don Quixote" April 5, 8, 11 and 13, before ceasing operations.

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