After being sued by its former director for more than a half-million dollars in severance and back pay, Allentown's Cadets drum corps has fired back with a counter claim seeking more than $1.5 million in losses allegedly incurred because of that director's sexual misconduct scandal.
Youth Education in the Arts (YEA), the nonprofit that runs the Cadets, said it lost more than $375,000 in sponsorships alone after George Hopkins was accused of misconduct by 11 women in April.
The claim filed Thursday seeks payment for those losses, and accuses Hopkins of breaching his financial duties and "duty of loyalty" to YEA by "misusing his position as CEO for his own personal pleasure, benefit and gain by … engaging in unlawful, non-consensual sexual activity with" YEA employees and participants.
"We thought the initial claim from George had no merit," Doug Rutherford, the chairman of YEA's board, said in an interview. "And over the last few months we've really realized the impact of the damages from this whole situation on our organization. So our intent is to be very clear about that."
Rutherford said he and the board had no intention to try to recoup those financial hits from Hopkins — until Hopkins sued YEA.
Hopkins' attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
The allegations against Hopkins span the nearly four decades that he led the Cadets, one of the most decorated drum corps in the youth activity. On Tuesday, Lehigh County prosecutors charged him with two counts of sexual assault stemming from the allegations of two of his accusers, both former employees. Hopkins has denied the allegations.
The revelations shocked the tight-knit drum corps community, sparking widespread calls for reform and leading some corps, and the national sanctioning organization, Drum Corps International, to adopt new policies.
The Cadets, reluctantly, were at the center of the firestorm, as they recovered from the loss of their leader in the national spotlight. Behind the scenes, the nonprofit was weathering staggering financial hits, according to the counterclaim filed Thursday.
In addition to the loss of sponsors including Zildjian and Vic Firth, makers of cymbals and drum sticks, respectively, the nonprofit says it lost $113,000 in withdrawn donations. The single largest loss in revenue came from its US Bands program, which runs about 150 high school marching band competitions across the country each year. It claims numerous bands did not participate this year because of Hopkins' association with US Bands, resulting in lost fees and ticket sales totaling nearly $850,000.
There were also added costs because of the scandal, according to the nonprofit, including $105,000 in legal fees.
YEA brings in about $5.5 million in revenue annually. Rutherford called the nonprofit's current financial situation "challenging" but said the board, which was appointed after the prior board resigned in the wake of the scandal, has found ways to cut costs and increase some revenue streams.
"I have extreme confidence in our board and in the new management we put in place to take the appropriate steps we need to do to be financially secure going forward," he said.
In his claim, Hopkins is seeking more than $650,000 from his former employer, the bulk being $580,000 in severance he said he was owed under his contract. Hopkins said the agreement provided him one month pay of his $199,000 annual salary for each of his 35 years as the organization's CEO.
He cited a contract that ended in 2017 to support his claim. In its response, the nonprofit said that severance agreement did not apply to the contract in place this year. It also said Hopkins did not leave on "mutually agreeable" terms, as the contract required, and that his resignation "in the face of allegations of serious misconduct expressly violated any terms of employment."