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Gay Men’s Chorus of L.A., facing budget shortfall and misconduct allegations, votes against dissolution

Gay Men’s Chorus of L.A., facing budget shortfall and misconduct allegations, votes against dissolution
The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, performing last year with faith groups at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. (Claire Hannah Collins / Los Angeles Times)

Leaders of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, facing a substantial budget shortfall and allegations of sexual misconduct within its ranks, met Wednesday night to consider dissolution of the group but ultimately voted against the idea.

In a special executive session, the board of directors voted not to dissolve and instead will try to bridge the organization’s budget gap, which executive director Jonathan Weedman said was nearly $200,000.

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Weedman downplayed the shortfall, saying it was fairly typical in the nonprofit sector and blaming the shortfall on recent bad press. But a faction of chorus membership has called for the immediate resignation of Weedman, whose contract expired last month. Messages left for several of Weedman’s critics were not returned.

In an interview after the special session, Weedman said his future with GMCLA remains uncertain but he wanted to stay on and steer the chorus to less turbulent waters.

“The board of directors met last night and reaffirmed its full faith in the mission of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles to change hearts and minds through the power of music, as it has done for the past 40 years,” a GMCLA representative wrote in a statement released Thursday.

The meeting followed allegations of inappropriate touching and language by board president John Duran, who is also the mayor of West Hollywood. Duran has denied the allegations.

Although Duran has announced that he will step down from his post at the end of the season, prominent LGBTQ activist and philanthropist Ariadne Getty confirmed that she has resigned from the chorus board because of the allegations.

“I have supported the GMCLA for over a decade and have a lot of love and respect for the dedicated volunteers and what they do for the community,” Getty said in a statement emailed to The Times.

Getty, the granddaughter of J. Paul Getty and the president and director of the Ariadne Getty Foundation, added: “My sole wish for the GMCLA is that it flourishes by finding leadership that will restore sound financial footing and is a safe place for the incredible volunteers who spend so much of their time bringing joy to their audiences and enriching their lives.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of GMCLA, which has long received accolades for its outreach in the LGBTQ community and beyond.

The chorus has a membership of nearly 200 volunteers and an annual budget of $1.7 million, according to 2016 tax filings. The bulk of the budget has historically come from grants and donations, tax filings show. The average cost of a GMCLA production is between $125,000 and $150,000, Weedman said, and average ticket sales across the last three or four shows have been about $70,000, he said.

Weedman said some chorus contractors have not been getting paid, and the financial shortfall means the organization may not be able to pay its full-time staff. He said that before the internal strife sprang into public view, $100,000 in contributions had been promised, and more were on the horizon — enough to make up for the shortfall.

Whether that money will still come is a big question, he said, as donors decide if they want to be associated with the organization.

“I wasn’t worried; I told people to sit tight, it would be fine,” he said. “Then the you-know-what hit the fan.”

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