Florida Rep’s Board of Directors Announce Leadership ChangeApril 06, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Florida Rep’s Board of Directors Announce Leadership Change
FORT MYERS, FL – It is with sadness that the Board of Directors of the Florida Repertory Theater announces that as the afternoon of April 5, 2018 Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director, Robert Cacioppo, has been terminated. This action follows serious allegations of “inappropriate behavior,” a two-tiered lawyer-led investigation that confirmed many of these allegations, and Mr. Cacioppo’s decision not to sign the Board-approved, leave of absence (LOA) agreement designed to address needed behavioral changes, additional problem resolution, and reinstatement.
Serious claims by multiple visiting artists and staff were filed against Mr. Cacioppo on February 1st. These allegations were accompanied by a letter of complaint submitted to Actor’s Equity, the Actors’ union under which the Rep contracts our visiting performers, six weeks earlier. Given the nature of these allegations, which included sexual harassment, creation of a hostile work environment, and additional charges, the Board acted immediately to separate Mr. Cacioppo from the Rep while launching a thorough investigation. The Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that handles Florida Rep’s Human Resources issues conducted the first level of investigation of the allegations, interviewing the complainants, Mr. Cacioppo, other staff and artists. The conclusion of the PEO’s investigation was a recommendation to the Board for Mr. Cacioppo’s immediate termination.
Because of Mr. Cacioppo’s role as co-founder and his dedication to the company, the Board commissioned a second level of investigation and hired a local attorney, who is an experienced employment law attorney, to look into these allegations further. While the thorough investigation that followed did not find a full legal case for sexual harassment, it did confirm that there were serious problems with Mr. Cacioppo’s behavior. These behavioral problems included bullying, considerable absence, demeaning individuals (particularly women) both publicly and privately, and anger management issues. A further result of the investigation highlighted the importance of making specific changes, given the Rep’s recent growth and economic impact on the community, to our organizational structure, governance, executive employment arrangements, and financial and expense controls.
In hopes of finding a way to help Mr. Cacioppo moderate his behavior and bring him back to the Rep, the Board offered Mr. Cacioppo an extended and partly paid leave of absence (LOA) rather than termination. The goals for this LOA were to protect the Theater’s work environment from any further negative impact, to ensure the continued support of Actors’ Equity Association, to provide Mr. Cacioppo the best possible opportunity to achieve much needed behavioral changes, and for the Board to make the needed organizational, governance, financial and procedural changes.
The Board-approved LOA was to extend through August 31st, as psychological professionals felt this would provide the minimum elapsed time for the needed behavioral change efforts to produce initial results. When presented with the Board-approved LOA, Mr. Cacioppo requested that the Board make some language changes and agree to entertain an earlier return date – July 1st, – if all other conditions of the leave agreement were being met, which the board approved.
With an expiration date of April 5th, Mr. Cacioppo has refused to sign the Board-approved LOA agreement, which includes acceptance of the organizational changes that must be made as well as the work needed to achieve and the accountability for the essential behavioral changes. Therefore, with regret, The Board of Directors has voted to end Mr. Cacioppo’s relationship with the Florida Rep.
John Martin, the theater’s Managing Director for most of its history, and the Rep’s very strong leadership team, have been leading the Rep since February 1st. They have received tremendous support from our 55 person staff and our many visiting artists and ensemble members. At the time of Mr. Cacioppo’s separation, the theatre’s production of “The Miracle Worker” was in its final stages of rehearsal. It opened without additional input from Mr. Cacioppo to sold-out previews and enjoyed a financially and artistically successful run. The theatre’s current production of “Cabaret,” which was directed by New York director/choreographer Stephanie Card entirely during Mr. Cacioppo’s suspension, is playing to record houses this season.
As Florida Rep enters the final months of its 20th Anniversary Season, the company is strong both artistically and financially. The 2018-2019 season was announced as planned and subscriptions are being processed ahead of schedule. Our 5th Annual PlayLab Festival is in its final planning stages with six new works on track to be showcased in early May. The company’s vibrant educational programming continues with strong enrollment for upcoming summer camps, classes, and touring theatre bookings far ahead of previous years.
Neither the theatre’s daily operations nor the longer term planning have been disrupted during Mr. Cacioppo’s separation, and will continue to move ahead as planned. Florida Rep’s Board of Directors will be deeply involved in crafting the needed changes in organizational structure, governance and executive employment contracts, and the Board as well as senior management are dedicated to upholding the company’s mission to be a first-class, artist driven regional theatre for Southwest Florida, producing a wide variety of work of the highest caliber on our two stages and in classrooms across the region, and ensuring that this important cultural and economic institution celebrates many more decades of success.