Chumbley’s contract not renewed

Published 4:45 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

By Staff
Executive director of Turnage at end of tumultuous run
Staff Writer
Robert Chumbley will no longer “see you at the theater.”
The Turnage Theaters Foundation Board of Trustees voted not to renew Chumbley’s contract for the 2009 fiscal year in a closed meeting Thursday evening.
Chumbley has served as the foundation’s executive director since taking over in mid-August 2007 for ousted executive director John Vogt.
The board has been reviewing Chumbley’s work with the Turnage for the past three to five months, focusing on the financial health of the theater, said Koestline and treasurer Ed Mann.
The executive board members made the Board of Trustees’ decision public shortly after their meeting Thursday.
Chumbley’s artistic acumen did well to attract popular shows, but did little to improve the financial success of the theater, said Koestline.
The former executive director also had a proven record as a successful fundraiser, Koestline said.
But Chumbley’s fundraising prowess was lost in translation at the Turnage, Koestline said. The foundation’s president and treasurer said the theater’s biggest financial issue is raising money through donations, which is supposed to account for 50 percent of its operating costs.
To combat the low volume of donations, the board plans to hire a business-minded executive director, who will focus on “operating skills,” said Koestline.
Former foundation executive director John Vogt, who gave way to Chumbley, said the biggest challenge for the next executive director will be working for the executive board.
Vogt, who took the position with the foundation in 2005, offered unfavorable opinions of Koestline and Mann.
Vogt was let go by the foundation on Aug. 14, 2007.
Former Turnage Marketing Director Beth Byrd is still steaming over the firing of Vogt.
But Byrd thinks Vogt got out of the position just in time.
Within days of firing Vogt, Chumbley was hired to the position on an interim basis.
At the end of the theater’s 2007 fiscal year, Chumbley was given a one-year contract as executive director.
With the theater up and running, and a season under his belt, Chumbley had little public critics.
Then at the July 18 Music in the Streets, Chumbley unleased a verbal assault on Gary Tomasulo, head of the Historic Downtown Merchants Association.
The public tirade was due to “an adverse reaction to prescribed medication,” according to Chumbley. The former executive director said he had never acted in such a manner before.
On Oct. 12, Chumbley was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence after being pulled over on U.S. Highway 264 by Trooper Chris Williams with the N.C. Highway Patrol.
According to the Highway Patrol’s report, Chumbley recorded a .09 alcohol content on a breath test administered by Williams. Chumbley was released from Beaufort County Jail on a $1,000 unsecured bond.
Fellow former executive director Vogt said, “I understand why Chumbley was driven to drinking.”
Vogt said he did not know Chumbley personally, but considers him a talented musician and gifted man.
The news that Chumbley’s contract would not be renewed came as no surprise to Tomasulo, while Vogt was more shocked by the way the situation was handled by the foundation.
The foundation has tasked a committee of five to begin an immediate search for Chumbley’s successor, said Koestline.
In the meantime, the president said the board has people that will step in and take on responsibilities in the interim.