Local News

Ethical allegations prompt suspension of Crown Coliseum managers

Posted October 13, 2008 3:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2008 6:34 p.m. EDT

— County officials said allegations of ethical violations prompted the suspension of three mangers of Cumberland County's main entertainment venue.

At an emergency meeting Friday, the Cumberland County Civic Center Commission put three employees on paid leave: Paul Beard Jr., CEO of the Crown Coliseum; Windy Lawson, the coliseum's marketing and sales director; and Herman Bullard, director of the Cumberland County Fair.

The move came hours after Beard fired the coliseum's director of ticketing, Pete Dembowski.

Beard said it was "a surprise that I would be placed on administrative leave" but added that he would not be surprised if the accusations came from Dembowski. Beard called his former worker as "a disgruntled employee," but Dembowski defended himself as "just the squeakiest wheel."

Bob Smith, chairman of the Civic Center commission, said that complaints of wrongdoing from several reliable people prompted the suspensions of Beard, Lawson and Bullard.

"I don't believe in any way, shape or form that one person is involved in the situation, as far as the allegations that have been made," Smith said.

"These were not rumors. They were signed affidavits, and they were signed statements," he continued.

Smith said the complaints did not have anything to do with misuse of money or the coliseum's former CEO, Rick Reno. Smith said state personnel law prevents him from going into more detail about the allegation.

Beard said that no one had approached him about the allegations before he was suspended or had shared the details with him afterward. "No one had discussed with me prior to that or since as to what the allegations are," he said.

Dembowski said that his working conditions deteriorated after Reno left to manage The Roanoke Rapids Theatre in March. Reno hired Dembowski in 2007.

"After Rick Reno left, it became almost like a monarchy system, him and her running everything," Dembowski said.

Beard said he does not believe that his behavior was ever unethical.

"In retrospect, I would not have done things any differently than I have done," Beard said.

He defended his performance since taking over as CEO in March.

“For almost a year now, our revenues have been up. Our attendance has been up, we’re doing more shows, doing bigger shows,” said Beard.

Cumberland County Human Resources Manager James Lawson will oversee the investigation into the allegations of ethical violations. Smith said the probe was expected to take 15 to 30 days.

Meanwhile, operations will go on smoothly at the Crown Coliseum, said Karen Long, who has been named its interim CEO.

"All the events will occur as planned, as scheduled," Long said. "They (the employees) should see no change to policies and procedures that are currently in place."