Letter | Be careful with your vote in Ward 1
Heather Holmes has some history with leadership positions in Rochester. She was the president of the board of directors at Rochester Civic Theatre in the spring of 2017, when a coalition of theatre shareholders asked that the [alleged] serial sexual harasser Gregory Stavrou be removed from the organization and that the behavior of the board itself re-align with the expectations in the organization’s bylaws. Several of the people expressing these concerns about the theatre’s leadership were members of the organization (donors), with voting rights to elect the board.
Apparently in reaction to this community organization, Holmes and Kay Hocker, then VP and current board president, consolidated power by re-writing the bylaws to remove voting membership entirely. They went on to fire their artistic director, held up by the community as the organization’s greatest asset, who successfully brought a wrongful termination suit against the theatre. The public response to this reactionary leadership cost the theatre so much in public support that they came to the city in the fall of 2017 asking for $80,000 in taxpayer money to subsidize their leadership failures.
These events took place just months before the #metoo movement emerged into the public consciousness. Heather Holmes was quoted in the Med City Beat in June of 2017 saying this about the women who brought forward stories of harassment or assault at the hands of the then-executive director: "There were a number of allegations that were put together and shared in an open letter to the board back in March, and again it’s allegations, so there wasn’t a lot of weight put into that." More than insensitive and unflattering, this sort of statement should be disqualifying in someone seeking a position of leadership in our community.
If experience is any guide, the style of leadership that Heather Holmes will bring to the City of Rochester could be hostile, reactionary, and may enable bad behavior by those in power. Please be careful with your vote for a City Council representative in Ward 1.
Tommy Rinkoski is a former volunteer and performer at the Rochester Civic Theatre.
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