Cadets drum corps board resigns en masse amid sexual misconduct scandal

Less than a week after famed drum corps director George Hopkins resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations made by nine women, the board of directors for the nonprofit that oversees the corps has followed suit, resigning en masse. A new board has been appointed to lead the Allentown-based Youth Education in the Arts, parent of the Cadets drum and bugle corps.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, the new board said it would serve with two objectives: “to ensure the safety of the members, volunteers, staff, and participants of YEA!; and to provide oversight and governance of the organization.” Doug Rutherford, a former member of the Cadets and a tech executive, is the new chairman.

 >>Sexual abuse in drum and bugle corps: Do you have a story?

“The recent allegations that have come to light are very disturbing and shocking,” Rutherford said in a statement “We are committed to an environment free from all forms of coercion and harassment. YEA! views sexual harassment, assault or aggression in any form as unacceptable; these behaviors will not be tolerated. Our mission is to support the development of young people through their participation in the performing arts while ensuring an environment that is safe, creative, and empowering for everyone involved.”

The former board, which voted to resign Tuesday night, had in recent days faced mounting pressure to step down. Within the drum corps world, many had questioned whether the members did enough to investigate the claims against Hopkins and trashed the board for an initial statement that made only a passing reference to the women, yet noted prominently that Hopkins denied their accusations.

Nearly 5,000 people had signed a petition demanding the 10-member, all-male board go.

Camera icon Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer
Megh Toth has accused George Hopkins of sexually assaulting her in 2006.

Hopkins, 61, resigned as the nonprofit’s CEO and director of the Cadets on Thursday, the day the Inquirer and Daily News reported that nine women accused him of sexual assault and harassment. Their stories span from 1980 to as recently as a few years ago and include accusations of lewd comments, groping, and rape. Three were performers with the Cadets when they said they were sexually abused by Hopkins. Five others worked for the nonprofit.

“I said no the entire time. I didn’t want this to happen,” said Megh Toth, one of the women, describing an alleged sexual assault by Hopkins in an Indianapolis hotel room in 2006. “And then your brain just goes. Your fight is gone.”

Hopkins’ downfall has rocked the drum corps world, where he has been a fixture for four decades. He became director of the Cadets in 1982 and has coached the corps to an impressive 10 world championships.

The board became aware of several of the women’s stories in January, after an attorney working on the women’s behalf provided them without the women’s names. The attorney said the women would be willing to be interviewed if the nonprofit hired an independent investigator and Hopkins was suspended pending the investigation outcome.

Hopkins was not suspended, and the board hired its own law firm to investigate. The attorney working for the women, in turn, did not provide their names.

The board later defended its actions, saying in a statement after the article was published that there was “no cooperation at all from anyone making those accusations.” The group soon after issued an apology, saying its first statement “did not do enough to acknowledge the tremendous hurt and pain of the victims.”

The board members who resigned are: Chairman Michael Kehoss of Minneapolis, Minn.; Treasurer Tim Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Secretary Brian Setzer of Nashville, Tenn.; Dirk Bernold of Rochester, NY; Ronald Ingber of Dix Hills, NY; Gary Stromberg of Chatham, NJ; Edward Dicarlo of New York City; Roger Floreska of Baldwin, NY; Howard Hoffman of Kendall Park, NJ; and Donald Staffin of Bridgewater, NJ.

The new members are Rutherford; Jane Lemmon of Malvern; Vicki Ferrence Ray of Wexford, Pa.; Ben Regalado of Severna Park, Md.; and Larry Mills of Phoenix, Az.

In their statement, the new board members said the nonprofit is working with RAINN, a national anti-sexual violence organization, to develop new policies, procedures, training and best practices as well as to provide support services “for any individual impacted in any way.”

Dan Acheson, CEO of Drum Corps International (DCI), the activity’s sanctioning body, will be monitoring the work of the new board to ensure it is in compliance with the organization’s rules and regulations. Peter Giles, a spokesman for the nonprofit, said Acheson was instrumental in helping select the new members.