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April 9th, 2014 NIGEL JAQUISS , AARON MESH | News Stories
 

Singing the Blues

A Portland choir group’s financial records are missing, and its ex-boss isn’t talking.

news25_4023IMAGE: WW Staff

Oregon Repertory Singers has launched an investigation of its former executive director after learning that virtually all of the arts organization’s financial records have disappeared.

The organization, a collection of six choirs now celebrating its 40th year, has also asked the Portland police to investigate, according to a letter sent by the group’s board and obtained by WW.

“We are unable to locate many of the records that would normally be kept in office files or on our computer system,” writes board chairman Mike Lindberg, a former longtime Portland city commissioner, in the April 7 letter. 

“Some of the missing information is financial, including tax records, and some of the information entered into our accounting software doesn’t match our financial institution’s records.”

The focus of the investigation is Jed Shay, who left Oregon Repertory Singers in December to become executive director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic.

In the four months since Shay left Oregon Repertory Singers, Lindberg says in his letter, the organization has been unable to figure out its financial position.

“We’re spending many hours trying to locate, reconcile and sometimes rebuild what is missing,” Lindberg writes. “We have had to correct financial information, such as payroll taxes, and file amended tax forms with additional payments for 2013.”

The need to correct its taxes raises the question of whether the organization is missing any money. 

Lindberg declined to comment to WW on the letter or the investigation.

Shay tells WW by email that he has cooperated fully to help locate the missing financial records. “I will continue to cooperate with their inquiries,” he says.

“I did not operate in a financial vacuum,” Shay adds. “The board had unfettered access and oversight with respect to our finances, including our taxes.”  

Oregon Repertory Singers—which includes both adult and youth choirs—last filed a tax return Nov. 13, 2013. The return listed $323,000 in revenues for fiscal year 2012—about what the group has brought in annually for the past five years.

Oregon Repertory Singers board member Carol Fenstermacher says the missing records have left the organization uncertain about its financial status.

“We are really trying to get a handle on where we are financially,” Fenstermacher says. “We do not seem to have the funds we thought we did.”

Fenstermacher said it’s still not clear whether any money is missing. “We don’t know,” she says. “Some entries are not the same as some of the bank statements.”

Public records suggest Shay has experienced difficulties in paying his personal bills. Over the past three years, five creditors have sued him in Washington County Circuit Court, seeking more than $9,600. Shay didn’t respond to WW’s inquiries about the lawsuits.

In his letter, Lindberg disclosed that Oregon Repertory Singers has hired legal counsel and asked the Portland police to investigate. Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said he couldn’t comment on the case.

As for Shay, his current employer, the Portland Youth Philharmonic, says he is on leave during the investigation. 

 
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