The Austin Chronicle

Former Artistic Director Sues Scottish Rite

By Brandon Watson, November 22, 2013, News

The bad blood between the Austin Scot­tish Rite Theater and former Artistic Direc­tor Emily Marks boiled legally last week, with a lawsuit filed on Nov. 13. Marks' lawsuit accuses the theatre board of slander, libel, negligent termination, and negligence in employee recruiting and supervision. How­ever, no statement of facts is included in the filings, and the pleading does not state an amount of monetary damages.

The suit is the latest development in a dispute brought to the public eye with Marks' termination in late July. At the time, former Executive Producer John Riedie told the Chronicle that the termination was the result of Marks' attempts to run the theatre independently of the Scottish Rite fraternity. Riedie further alleged that an intimidation campaign was waged against Marks in the weeks leading up to the termination.

Indeed, amended board meeting minutes from May reveal tensions between Marks and the board of directors. At issue was Marks' refusal to sign the organization's 990 (nonprofit) tax form. The minutes reflect that Marks' discomfort was due to what she perceived as the inappropriate blurring of fraternity and theatre governance. The discussion culminated with Marks walking out of the meeting, an action that resulted in a formal reprimand.

In response to the press and social media chatter, theatre board Chairman Todd Smith posted a statement on the group's website accusing both Marks and Riedie of waging a "smear campaign." In the statement, he acknowledges that Marks had made harassment claims, but insists the board took the appropriate steps to investigate all incidents and ensure Marks' safety. He roundly denies any wrongdoing, stating that the board was in full compliance with the law.

Representatives of the Scottish Rite The­ater and Marks were both contacted for comment on the lawsuit. At press time, the Scottish Rite had not responded. Marks' attorney Blair Dancy only offered a brief statement: "Emily has reached out to the theater in an effort to set things right, and she's waiting to hear back. She'll amend the petition with more specific allegations if the theater is not interested in that. But to give the theater a chance to repair the situation, she chooses to remain silent for now."

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