A preliminary criminal investigation into rubber checks issued by the Greater Buffalo Opera Company is not the only legal problem confronting the organization.
Musicians whose paychecks bounced after two opera performances last month have initiated civil action against the company.
The groundwork for a lawsuit was laid in a letter from Richard D. Furlong, lawyer for Buffalo Musicians Union Local 92, noting that opera company "shareholders" -- officers and directors -- "may be liable" for those wages.
The letter addressed to General Director Gary Burgess and Secretary Martha Hyde demanded to see the company's business records, including minutes of board meetings.
In the wake of Monday's emergency board session, at which directors reportedly put off dealing with the bogus payments until after the holidays and then refused to comment publicly, legal action may be the only recourse, said Mark Jones, Local 92 president.
The union represents 46 musicians who made up the orchestra for "The Flying Dutchman" in Shea's Performing Arts Center Nov. 21 and 23.
The musicians reportedly were not the only ones who received worthless paychecks.
Conductor Stefan Kozinski, the principal singers and some members of the company's chorus also were stiffed.
"Some checks went through, others bounced. It depended when a check was deposited," said chorus member Mark Rabice.
Rabice said singers who received worthless checks probably will follow the musicians' lead by suing the opera company.
Jones and Nancy Townsend, a company rehearsal pianist who received one of the bogus checks, met Thursday with John C. Doscher, the Erie County district attorney's chief financial prosecutor, in what sources described as a preliminary investigation of the bad check allegations.
Ms. Townsend's check and others reportedly were brought to Doscher's office.