Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus Asks for Riley’s Resignation
Rumors have been escalating recently about the future of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus (FTLGMC) and more specifically, the fate of their director, Todd Wiley, who was met with a petition signed by 43 members asking for his resignation.
Included in that petition were 11 members of the FTLGMC who were informed via email by board of director’s officer Brian Garrett, that their membership in the chorus has been terminated. In the email, Garrett states “according to the FTLGMC Handbook, any insubordinate or disruptive action can lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
The terminated members began to express hostility towards Wiley after he fired Gordon Roberts, assistant director of the chorus. “Roberts was dismissed this summer when he refused to do his job,” states Wiley. Roberts subsequently approached both the officers and board of directors of the chorus to garner support for his reinstatement. “After my decision was upheld by both groups, Roberts proceeded to approach our members.”
Roberts was successful in his outreach. Former chorus member Michael Valdez tells SFGN approximately 30 members attending the first rehearsal of the new season, “stood up in front of the chorus, made a statement of regret, and walked out of the rehearsal in protest of the actions taken by the board of directors and Wiley.” They joined the 11 banished members at another location.
Besides Roberts’ dismissal, some members in good standing were frustrated with the decision to relocate the FTLGMC to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. They called the decision “unilateral” and voiced their discontent. “Wiley has the board in his pocket. They’ll do whatever he wants,” Valdez states.
The decision to relocate was made this past June by the board of director’s. According to Wiley, who at the time was the director of music for the Sunshine Cathedral, the move was orchestrated after he was asked to leave his position with cathedral because he refused to take a 50 percent pay cut. “I told the Senior Pastor, Durrell Watkins that I would be willing to accept his terms if he would allow me to find another source of income.”
However, Wiley states that Watkins required him to continue working a full-time schedule at half the pay. And ultimately, Wiley decided to step down from his position with the Sunshine Cathedral. Furious with his the decision, Watkins asked Wiley to leave the premises permanently. As a result, he would no longer be allowed to director the FTLGMC at that location. “At that time, the board of directors began searching for a new location and settled on St. Mark’s,” states Wiley.
Unhappy with the explanation, at the rehearsal on September 7, member Charles Hood read from a prepared script: “In light of recent events, including the termination of ten of our chorus brothers…we have respectfully asked Todd for his resignation. We can no longer support Todd.” However, “we are choosing to remain members of the chorus, but will be leaving tonight’s rehearsal now in protest.”
A membership meeting was proposed to discuss the future of the chorus, where a vote will be taken in regards to Wiley and his continued involvement with the chorus. After the incident, Wiley distributed a letter to past and current membership. He states, “If you would like to borrow any music from our library, you are more than welcome to those resources,” hinting that a new chorus, formed by ousted members, was in the works.
“We do not want to venture out on our own and form a new chorus,” states Sebastian Salvo, a concerned member who was recently exiled by Garrett and company. “We would love to come together as the group we once were, but under new leadership.”
In addition, Wiley is being accused of revising of the organization’s by-laws, fiscal policy and cash flow process without board approval.
Wiley tells SFGN the by-laws were revised in February 2010 to include the newly formed women’s chorus and the FTLGMC’s collaboration with the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble. “This decision was made by board of directors of the organization. I don’t have the authority to change the by-laws on my own,” he states. Although Wiley is a voting member on the board of directors, he only holds one vote, far less than what is required to make such a change.
The board members are comprised of chorus officers, the president of both the South Florida Wind Ensemble and Women’s Chorus’s, two community members-at-large, one FTLGMC member and Wiley. “I report to the board,” Wiley says. “I can’t make any decisions without their approval.”
But despite Salvo’s plea for harmony, SFGN has recently discovered that a new chorus led by Roberts was being organized and held their first rehearsal last week at the Sunshine Cathedral, the former rehearsal space of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. Pastor Watkins, who terminated Wiley, has also agreed to waive the $600 monthly fee usually charged to organizations to rent the space.
In addition, FTLGMC board member Tom Begert Clark has since resigned. It is unknown if he will support the newly formed chorus.
The first performance of the season by the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus led by Wiley will be held on December 4 at the Parker Playhouse.