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Ciminelli corruption probe a shock for BPO

The announcement Thursday that well-known businessman and philanthropist Louis P. Ciminelli is facing corruption charges was stunning for many to hear.

It was particularly painful news for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ciminelli has been chairman of the BPO's board for two terms, assuming the office in 2012. He has been generous to the orchestra, and his tenure has been a time of prosperity. In 2015, when his 60th birthday coincided with the BPO's fall season-opening gala, Ciminelli gave the orchestra a gift of $1 million. He donated the money in honor of Dan Hart, the BPO's executive director, and it kicked off a fundraising initiative dubbed the Crescendo Campaign.

In June, Ciminelli and an an anonymous donor underwrote  what proved to be a very popular appearance at Kleinhans Music Hall by the Forte Tenors. All proceeds from the concert went to Catholic Charities. He also established a tradition of underwriting the orchestra's season-opening celebration, including the most recent gala, which took place Sept. 17. The gala this year was unusually festive, with the BPO's musicians celebrating a new six-year contract.

Hart, reached by The News on Thursday, confessed he was broadsided by the news of the corruption probe.

"You never know what will happen," he said of the news.

He said that as it happens, Ciminelli's term as chairman was up, a decision the board members agreed on in July. The position routinely changes hand every few years.

"The baton is being passed this Tuesday to Steve Swift in the annual meeting," Hart said. Steven Swift, of HealthNow New York, has been serving as treasurer of the board and will assume the post of chairman following a ceremonial vote. Hart said the press releases announcing the news were already prepared.

Hart expressed gratitude to Ciminelli for his achievements as chair of the BPO's board, especially for the work he did building the orchestra's endowment.

"He served two great terms, and we made a lot of progress during that time," he said.



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