An employee suspended in April by Allentown's Cadets drum corps after a woman said she had told him about inappropriate behavior by former director George Hopkins has been cleared of wrongdoing by an investigator hired to review the claim.
The investigator found that the woman, Jess Beyer, did not explicitly say she was being sexually harassed, but instead told Sean King that Hopkins had sent her late-night text messages while he appeared to be drunk. The allegation, the investigator wrote in her report, was "fully resolved in favor of King."
Beyer's attorney, Janice Newman, disputed the conclusion, accusing the investigator of trying to "victimize and silence" Beyer by "portraying the hostile working environment … in neutral language." She said Beyer does not "exonerate Sean King for his inaction."
King will resume working for Youth Education in the Arts, the Allentown nonprofit that runs the Cadets, as a contractor, according to Doug Rutherford, the recently appointed chairman of the nonprofit's board. King will not step back into the role of interim CEO, which he was tapped for when Hopkins resigned in April.
Rutherford said the report from Chicago law firm Franczek Radlet highlighted the office's toxic work environment and the lack of procedures for reporting and investigating sexual harassment. Hopkins himself, Rutherford said, was the only person with authority to act on such matters.
"They had an unhealthy work environment where there were no policies and procedures, and there was no training, and people did not know how to handle these situations and didn't have a path to do that," Rutherford said. "And we've now created multiple paths. We've created the training and guidance so should something like this occur, people will know how to handle it."
Hopkins, the longtime director of the famed drum corps, resigned in April after nine women whose stories spanned four decades told the Inquirer and Daily News he had sexually harassed or abused them. Two additional women, including Beyer, came forward within days to say they were also victims.
Beyer, now a 33-year-old mother from Drexel Hill, marched with the Cadets in 2006 and worked for the organization from 2007 to 2009. She said Hopkins regularly made her uncomfortable, once kissing her abruptly in a parking lot and also sending her text messages seeking sex. Beyer said one day in spring 2008 Hopkins raped her in his apartment after asking her to come there to help him with work.
(Prosecutors in Lehigh County are investigating the allegation, which falls within the state's criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault. Hopkins recently disconnected his cellphone and has not been able to be reached for comment. )
Beyer in April told the Inquirer and Daily News she confided in King about some of Hopkins' behavior. She said she did not tell him she had been raped but did tell King that Hopkins was sending her late-night text messages that made her uncomfortable.
King was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation shortly after that story was published.
Beyer this month told the investigator, Jennifer Smith, that she did not tell King that the texts were sexually charged but believes he could have followed up on her concerns by asking to see the messages, according to the report.
King told Smith that Beyer had spoken with him about poor working conditions at the office but that she never reported she was being sexually harassed.
"King interpreted Beyer's concern to be with the same type of berating conduct that he experienced from Hopkins," Smith wrote.
Contacted by a reporter Thursday, King declined to comment.
Smith said that although she set up a hotline to solicit complaints, no other current or former employees made allegations against King.
Smith is also conducting a broader investigation into the allegations against Hopkins and the organization's records and policies. Rutherford said that report should be released this summer.
In her report on King, Smith said she interviewed 16 other current and former employees, who all described a hostile environment where Hopkins often yelled at and demeaned female and male employees.
Also, Youth Education in the Arts this week announced that George Hopkins has been removed from the Cadets Hall of Fame. His continuing position in the hall, nearly three months after the allegations against him became public, had become a point of frustration for many Cadets alumni, including several of his accusers.