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Artists leave Webster PR amid sexual misconduct allegations; Former VP opens new firm

Artists leave Webster PR amid sexual misconduct allegations; Former VP opens new firm (Fox 17 News)

The former VP of Webster PR took on multiple stars under a new name on Thursday amid sexual misconduct allegations against the firm's former boss Kirt Webster.

Country artists such as Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Kid Rock are no longer artists under Webster PR.

Jeremy Westby said the artists leaving Webster PR are coming over to a newly-founded company, "Westby PR." Kirt Webster, a well-known Nashville publicist, who built Webster PR from the ground up, is accused of trading sex for favors.

One week after walking the red carpet with celebrity clients Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, a former client accused Webster of sexually abusing and harassing employees. Webster denied the claims.

Austin Rick claims Webster offered him opportunities in the music world in exchange for sex in 2008.

“He expected me to allow him to do things to me that were sexual like oral sex, fondling my genitals in hot tubs," Rick said.

Webster has denied the claims, saying the relationship with Rick was consensual. Since Rick publicly accused Webster, other men have come forward with similar claims.

Amid the scandal Jeremy Westby launched his own company, Westby Public Relations, and took some of the famous clients with him.

“I hope for the best," Westby said. "He's going to do what he needs to do, and he is seeking the help that he needs. I do what I need to do on behalf of the clients."

Jeremy Westby said he met Kirt Webster nearly 10 years ago.

“I will say this; I don't want to get into the personal side, but he saved my life,” Westby said.

Westby said he'd been abusing alcohol and working as a club promoter when Webster stepped in.

“He intervened," Westby said. "He said you're bigger than this and you're more important than this and you have a future and you have a destiny and it's not sitting in this club, and that's when I went to work for him. It's been nine years six months in 16 days. It’s not always easy.”

After more than a decade of fighting for clients, tonight the tables are turned.

“There's no magic button," Westby said. "There's no magic fix it's a life crazy stuff happens, and you just have to learn to heal and grow and move beyond that be the best person you can with the gifts God's given you."

Another VP at Webster, Scott Adkins, is also taking some of the clients and forming his own PR company. So far, he's signed on Billy Ray Cyrus and Naomi Judd to his new firm Adkins PR.

"I tell the clients the same thing that I've told the Webster PR staff, it's their choice to stay or leave," Westby said. "You can't force someone into a relationship in business. At the end of the day, you have to look at your own heart and know that you made the right decision on behalf of your family, your friends, your colleagues, your industry."

It's something Cindy Beresh-Bryant agrees with. She's the CEO and president of HR Solutions By Design. The group provides consulting services primarily to small and mid-size businesses.

"When you have allegations of wrongdoing, misconduct, harassment, whether it's the national discussion around Harvey Weinstein or the local discussion here in Nashville, what we see multiple times is that many people knew it was going on but they didn't speak up," Beresh-Bryant said. "That's when you really have a toxic work environment that not only hurts your employees, but ultimately as with the Webster Public relations agency, it hurts your organization."

She said organizational culture is so important and the only thing competitors can't duplicate.

"Regradless of what an organization says they value, their actions how they treat employees... that's the true measure of their values," Beresh-Bryant said. "I tell my clients that there are two rules; treat people the way you want to be treated and do the right thing."

Kirt Webster issued a statement earlier this week denying the allegations by Austin Rick.

"It saddens Mr. Webster that nine years later, after Mr. Rick's music career has been stagnant, Mr. Rick has taken the opportunistic approach of mischaracterizing that relationship and posting untrue allegations."


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