Although there have been no new talks between the Sarasota Orchestra and its musicians over their new contract, the man the musicians union hired to negotiate a deal has become the topic of conversation himself.
Leonard Leibowitz, a lawyer for several performing arts unions, has been charged with embezzling about $150,000 from a union he represented.
Federal prosecutors said Leibowitz allegedly wrote checks to himself from the Independent Artists of America checkbook. They said in 1997 he asked the union for an advance on his retainer.
Leibowitz’s retainer was $42,000, but from 1997 to 2005, he allegedly wrote $350,000 worth of checks to himself, his company and his wife rather than take his retainer.
Leibowitz was charged in July, before the American Federation of Musicians union asked him to conduct negotiations with the Sarasota Orchestra.
“Lenny has been under retainer as a negotiating attorney for several years,” said Richard Sparrow, secretary of the union’s Gulf Coast chapter. “The charges against him have no real relevance to how this particular negotiation goes. We believe he’s the right person for that.”
Dan Jordan, the orchestra’s concertmaster, said Leibowitz successfully negotiated the musicians’ last contract three years ago, so he trusts him. But he said he wanted the talks to continue and said if
Leibowitz was the stumbling block, “there are ways around that.”
Orchestra CEO Joseph McKenna said he didn’t want to comment on Leibowitz’s “personal problems.” Leibowitz could not be reached for comment.