Report: Drum corps leader threw things at work, called women ‘little girls’
George Hopkins, the former director of Allentown's Cadets drum corps, was an "aggressive, combative and unreasonable" manager, according to a report released Monday.
George Hopkins threw things when angry. He dated employees and then ranted about their breakups on his blog. He often called women "little girls."
And he did it all while running a nonprofit tasked with enriching the lives of young people, Allentown's Youth Education in the Arts (YEA).
A report released Monday depicts in new detail Hopkins' management of the nonprofit, which operates the nationally recognized Cadets drum and bugle corps. It describes the 62-year-old Hopkins, who was ousted as executive director in April amid allegations of sexual misconduct, as "aggressive, combative and unreasonable."
Hopkins declined to be interviewed for the report, which was conducted for YEA's board by lawyers from Chicago's Franczek Radelet law firm, which specializes in labor and employment law. The report did not examine previous allegations of sexual misconduct but does include one new accusation. In a statement from his lawyer, Hopkins told the investigators he "vehemently denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing."
"In light of the highly consistent and numerous reports of the conduct described in this report, we do not find Hopkins' general denial credible," the investigators wrote.
Hopkins was among the most celebrated leaders in the world of drum and bugle corps, an activity that combines marching band, color guard, and theatrics, and involves thousands of young people annually. Twelve women have accused him of misconduct, ranging from making lewd comments to rape. Matthew Falk, chief of prosecutions for the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office, said in an interview that his office has an ongoing investigation into the claims. He declined to comment further.
The law firm's report noted that there was "very little oversight of Hopkins" by the former YEA board, which resigned amid the scandal. It found no evidence that board members knew of any accusations against Hopkins before this year.
The investigation also reviewed the nonprofit's policies and procedures before Hopkins' departure and found them "inadequate to prevent sexual harassment and sexual misconduct." Among the key findings:
The staff was generally not aware how to report claims of misconduct. A committee was created to develop a sexual-harassment policy in 2015, but the report said it was unclear whether that draft policy was ever approved and implemented.
None of the current employees interviewed said they had been sexually harassed by Hopkins. Some said he made off-color comments about women. One woman said he emailed her to say he appreciated "how she looks" and was glad she was "making an effort to look better."
Hopkins sent multiple sexually inappropriate emails through the nonprofit's email server.
The nonprofit's new board of directors issued a sexual-harassment policy and code of conduct in May. Doug Rutherford, the board's chairman, said the organization has also conducted training sessions for its employees, volunteers, and members.
Rutherford said Hopkins' departure left a void that ultimately was filled as employees, once stymied by Hopkins' micromanaging, took on new responsibilities.
He said the organization has found savings — and made up some of the more than $300,000 spent since April on such unexpected items as training and legal fees — by giving the heads of the nonprofit's programs control over their budgets. Previously, Hopkins held all the purse strings.
"Everything went through him, single threaded," Rutherford said. "We flattened the organization and gave control to each of the programs to manage their money. It changed everything overnight."
Though the report focused on the internal workings of YEA, the investigation also includes a new accusation from a now 42-year-old woman, the first of Hopkins' accusers to have never marched with or worked for the Cadets.
Nicole Rao Barry was not identified in the report but agreed to be identified by the Inquirer and Daily News. She said she met Hopkins in the winter of 1996 while in Dayton, Ohio, for the finals competition of Winter Guard International, a circuit whose membership often overlaps with drum corps.
Barry said she met Hopkins at a gathering of other performers and staff in a hotel lobby. She was 19, making her 20 years Hopkins' junior. When she was ready to leave, someone suggested he could drive her to her hotel.
She said at his car he grabbed her arm and forcefully kissed her.
"I remember thinking: 'What is going on here? Who does this guy think he is?' And me resisting it and it ending. And me just saying, 'Take me home,'" she said.
While the experience was jarring, Barry said, she brushed it off, lumping Hopkins together with other creepy men who had hit on her. When she read the article about him in April, including the article of one woman who described an experience similar to hers, she said she felt sick.
"Seeing this was part of a predatory pattern of behavior, I feel bad that I had mischaracterized it all these years and not spoken up earlier," she said.
She said she decided to tell her story to add credibility to those shared by other women.
"It wasn't the most horrific story out of all of the stories that have been told about this guy," she said of her experience. "But if it can lend just another piece of the puzzle, then I feel that it only shows them respect by coming forward and saying: 'You're not the only one. This happened to me, too.'"