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Barbershop Harmony Society files suit against Harmony Foundation and its leaders

Barbershop Harmony Society files suit against Harmony Foundation and its leaders

Key issue is election of Foundation trustees, including nominations from Society floor

The Barbershop Harmony Society today filed suit in Wisconsin State Court against Harmony Foundation International and its leaders.

The case asks the court to force HFI to submit nominations for its board to the Society so the BHS Board can elect new Foundation trustees. Further, it asks the court to confirm that the Society Board also may make nominations from its own floor.

Both requested actions mirror the Foundation’s bylaws which, for more than 60 years, have required the Society Board to elect Foundation trustees.

The Society Board elects Foundation trustees and is responsible for ensuring they:

  • uphold the bylaws and a trust agreement between the two organizations;
  • support Society initiatives through HFI fundraising efforts; and
  • are committed to assuring the future of the Society, as the single organization that creates and oversees the programs and services that fuel all barbershop singing communities.

While the Society Board typically elects individuals nominated by the Foundation, its own nomination of trustees from the BHS floor serves as a critical check-and-balance option to ensure the responsibilities listed above can be carried out, Society President John Donehower said.

“A foundation simply cannot claim independence, as HFI has done, walk away from its parent organization, and go its own way,” Donehower said. “It is clear once again that, unfortunately, only a court can resolve this situation.”

The suit names HFI, Foundation President and CEO Perry White, current board chair Kendall Williams, former chair Gary Plaag, current and former trustees Don Laursen, Lynn Weaver, Don Lambert, Sherri Matthews, Mike Moisio, Dan Bell, Jay Bylsma and Christina Lewellen, and Jim Warner, general counsel to HFI.

BHS also will file a secondary case this week seeking damages from HFI leaders for ongoing harm to the Society's reputation and financial standing. The Society Board remains hopeful, however, that the dispute will be resolved through a settlement with HFI or by state court order on the election matters.

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