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OCPAC chairman backs president

February 08, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

THE chairman and several other board members of the Orange County Performing Arts Center voiced support Wednesday for Terrence Dwyer, the new president whose leadership is being criticized by some former staffers who left in a wave of recent high-level departures.

"He's a highly competent, professional manager," said Chairman Michael S. Gordon, with "the right balance of talents" to lead the Costa Mesa center as it tries to raise tens of millions of dollars to pay off the debt on its new Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Many of those who have left were fundraisers; besides needing more than $10 million in yearly donations to balance its operating budget, the center is in a difficult campaign, still $75 million short of its goal, to fund the $237.5-million expansion. Michael L. Halpern, formerly the center's second-ranking fundraiser, blasted Dwyer as an uncommunicative and ungracious leader who drove away most of a strong fundraising staff. Another former fundraiser, Bruce Alexander, on Wednesday said he saw "staff at all levels and departments become increasingly frustrated, indecisive and fearful ... due to the lack of communication and direction from the top."

Dwyer, a reserved man whose predecessor was the gregarious Jerry Mandel, insists that he has led via "open and transparent communication" since arriving last April.

"Some people take to his style and are very upbeat and motivated by it, and some are not," Gordon said. "We're not happy people left, but Terry was just as happy some of them did leave. That's what happens when a new CEO comes in." Sally S. Crockett praised Dwyer for "handling everything that's come his way with dignity and a positive attitude," and cited his "incredible ideas" for bringing in younger, more ethnically varied audiences. "Fresh ideas are sometimes not what other people want to hear," she added.

Board members John R. Evans, Patricia Poss and Thomas H. Nielsen also said they were satisfied with the new president, and Roger Kirwan, co-chairman of the capital campaign, has backed Dwyer in the controversy. Others on the board's executive committee could not be reached Wednesday or said Gordon alone should speak for the organization.

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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