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Chicago Symphony Orchestra Fundraising Manager Accused of Sexual Harassment is Removed.

The manager of the CSO’s telefundraising office has been removed. Sources from within the CSO’s organization confirm the removal of the call center manager.

The manager, who replaced convicted serial fraudster Jacqueline Berkaw, and had been accused by multiple staff members of sexual harassment, as well as verbally violent and demeaning attacks against the staff, was removed today.

Complaints against him were first made over a year ago and were ignored by both the CSO and DCM Telefundraising the vendor subcontracted by the CSO to run the telefundraising call center.

At that time, a Chicago based attorney contacted two CSO board members to inform them that Berkaw was a convicted felon who had served time in a federal prison for credit card, real estate and bank fraud. The attorney also informed them that it was illegal for Berkaw to have been hired and that either DCM had ignored the results of the mandatory background check (which is illegal) or had not conducted one (which is also illegal) or that DCM and the CSO colluded in hiring Berkaw despite her criminal history.

Berkaw was notorious for her violent verbal assaults, her demeaning behavior and was suspected of using the CSO/DCM database to obtain the credit cards of patrons. Multiple staff members reported Berkaw engaging in behavior that was identical to the actions she took during her spree in Santa Barbara where she was found guilty of committing hundreds of acts of fraud.

The board members refused to discuss these issues which is illegal as they are required to report accusations and concerns regarding any illegal activity by members of the CSO staff or anyone associated with the CSO.

Following this the attorney contacted a lawyer for the CSO who arranged for an outside computer expert to perform an audit of the CSO’s computers. Within 48 hours of the review, Berkaw was removed, and transferred to the fundraising office of The Houston Ballet where she has worked for the past year and where she continues to have access to thousands of credit cards.

When informed of this the Houston District Attorney’s Office responded that they did not have the resources available to investigate the issue. When the Houston Chronicle was informed they initially investigated the matter but then under pressure from editorial management decided that Berkaw was working for DCM and not directly employed by the Houston Ballet and therefore, despite her criminal record, her history of credit card fraud, and the fact that the CSO had transferred her, it was not of interest to the Houston community and the paper declined to report the issue.

As soon as Berkaw was transferred her replacement resumed most of the same behavior including screaming at the staff, using demeaning and abusive language and, sexually harassing young women in the call center. These actions were witnessed by multiple staff members and were reported to CSO managers who refused to discuss the issue.

When legal remedies were sought the young woman bringing the complaint was told that it was too expensive to litigate.

The young woman was then subjected to more harassment in the form of having useful leads cut off and replaced with an endless list of patrons who had not contributed in as much as two or three decades. When these dead leads did not produce contributions she was fired. Following the young woman’s dismissal from the call center the manager proceeded to harass other members of the staff including a woman with a medically certified disability.

When she informed the manager of her disability and provided proof of it from her doctor, and requested the manager make allowances for her condition, the manager reused to make the legally required accommodations and continued to berate the woman. He then closed off lucrative and useful leads, and then punished her for failing to secure contributions from patrons. This became the standard procedure in the call center. Callers who were friendly with the manager and acquiesced to his requests were rewarded with lucrative leads. Those who refused were sent down the rabbit hole to termination.

At the same time, while under pressure from the Office of Charitable Trusts for refusing to respect do not call requests, and other procedural violations, DCM and the Development Office of the CSO instituted new policies that changed the definitions of patrons. These new definitions allowed them to inflate the number of contributors by reclassifying those who had not contributed in over a year to “new” contributors if they agreed to make a financial contribution. These are not new members of the CSO community but old members returning. The significance of this is that it allows DCM and the CSO to present inflated numbers to the CSO’s corporate sponsors in exchange for large financial contributions. These include sponsorships of events that range from $250,000 to a million dollars and are made by the likes of Bank of America and CVS among other large corporate entities.

Bank of America was notified of these issues over a year ago and to date has taken no action to address these concerns or how they may be impacting their customers or their financial status.

This activity has been going on for decades and is standard for DCM and its cousin fundraiser SD&A both of whom have engaged in this distortion across the country with non-profits ranging from the SF Ballet to Carnegie Hall and dozens of other prominent non-profits in the art world.

In this sweatshop environment it is not surprising to find managers who are verbally abusive nor is it surprising to find staff members being harassed.

The woman with the disability brought her situation to the attention of the EEOC – the US Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC launched an investigation and received multiple reports of abuse by the call center manager. This prompted a review by DCM. As a result the manager has been removed. It is crucial to note that DCM had already been made aware of these issues long before the EEOC became involved and only responded with an “investigation” once the EEOC contacted them.

However we do not know as of now if the call center manager, like Berkaw, has been transferred or has actually been fired. Additionally DCM and the CSO have made no changes to their inflation of the database and continue to report exaggerated numbers to their corporate sponsors.

Despite repeated attempts to bring this matter to the attention of the media (including The Chicago Tribune, NPR, The NY Times, The San Francisco and Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Guardian and others) no one has reported it. As a result, Berkaw continues to have access to thousands of credit cards, continues to be employed by DCM, and DCM continues to engage in misrepresenting the data it uses to justify its contracts. The CSO continues to refuse to inform its patrons of the details of the computer audit, refuses to let them know if their credit cards were compromised by Berkaw, continues to employ DCM, and continues to allow the call center to be run as a sweatshop.

We can however report that in an effort to protect Jeff Alexander, the president of the CSO and the rest of the staff from having to answer for these issues, the CSO has redesigned its webpage and scrubbed the contact details for Alexander & Co. In there place one now is given the option of contacting a PR department which no doubt will be more than happy to offer boilerplate, screwed on smiles, and assorted dulcet tones of mind-numbing useless and rhetorically empty calories, all intended to make you go away or risk having your brain implode as your conscience exceeds the recommended g-force tolerance recommended for dealing with corporate weasels.

Welcome, as the line from The Untouchable goes, to Chicago; it stinks like a whore house at low tide.


More details as they become available.

Update: 9/1/18

Eventually the media, having attempted everything else, will get around to doing the right thing and will have no choice but to report on DCM and the CSO.

In light of that interested parties may consider the following:

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