March 4, 2019 at 9:07 pm PDT | by Troy Masters
Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles replaces key leadership team posts

Steve Holzer (left) replaces John Duran as Board Chair of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Lou Spisto (right) replaces Jonathan Weedman as the group’s Executive Director.

It’s almost like the fates decided to dump a chorus of scandalous outrage on West Hollywood’s LGBT community at the same time. But this week, as if in harmonic lockstep, there was movement on almost every one of them.

Latisha Nixon, mother of Gemmel Moore, filed a civil suit against Ed Buck just as the West Hollywood Sheriff’s office announced it has reopened its investigation into Moore’s death; the West Hollywood City Council race is finally over; and John Duran has resigned as Mayor of West Hollywood, bowing to public pressure after a sexual misconduct complaint by a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) drew fierce criticism.

GMCLA has been busy cleaning up after a multi-layered-whammy of bad PR.

Executive Director Jonathan Weedman had been accused in December 2017 of inappropriate contact with a 20-year old Chorus member, who he had hired to work in his home. GMCLA Executive Board members ordered an independent investigation which determined there was “insufficient credible evidence of wrongdoing by Weedman.”

And though the Board accepted the findings and no action was taken, Weedman’s contract was not renewed.

Simultaneously the group faced a much more high-profile storm.

A more recent and separate internal investigation focused on West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, also dropped after investigators found “no sufficient evidence” to substantiate complaints by a chorus member. Duran was accused of inserting his fingers into the underwear waistband of a young Chorus member.

After the Board, on which Duran was Chair, also accepted those findings the chorus membership was left reeling and pressure was applied. Duran eventually agreed to immediately step down as Board Chair and leave the Board altogether in August 2019.

The Chorus was left to face an existential choice.

And at an executive session of the Board on February 13, board members decided against dissolving GMCLA in the face of $175,000.00 debt load. This despite Board members, reliable donors and corporate sponsors distancing themselves from the 40 year old LGBT institution.

The Chorus needed to regroup.

Slow forward to this week: GMCLA announced that Steve Holzer, a Board member and member of the chorus for many years, will replace Duran as Board Chair.

“The chorus has been a fundamental part of my life for the past 16 years,” said Holzer. “I’m delighted that Lou Spisto has graciously agreed to step in to serve as our Interim Executive Director. We’ve known Lou personally as an incredible resource on the Board.”

Spisto, a TONY-nominated producer will become the group’s interim Executive Director having served on the Board of GMCLA. He is well regarded financial turnarounds for two major arts organizations in Southern California.

“I am delighted to continue work with my friends here at GMCLA in this new role and honored to be asked to step in at such a critical time. I’ve loved this organization since the days of Artistic Director John Bailey in the 90’s and I know that GMCLA’s very existence is essential to the community we represent and to the great Los Angeles.”

GMCLA says it has raised over $75,000 and that its upcoming concert “Turn Back Time: The Best of the last forty years of GMCLA” is selling well.

Spisto says that “beyond the concert, we are doing what must be done to give GMCLA long-term stability.”

No final announcement has been made on the group’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Voice Awards. Last year the Voice Awards raised more than a quarter of GMCLA’s annual 2 million dollar budget.

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