Yesterday, Nashville public relations executive Kirt Webster stepped away from his company after a former client accused him of sexual misconduct. Now, former employees of his company, Webster PR, are stepping forward to share their stories.
Austin Rick, who performed country music under the stage name Austin Cody, has stated that Webster fondled, drugged and assaulted him on multiple occasions in 2008 while he was on Webster PR's roster. Hours after his story broke, Wide Open Country discovered multiple anonymous online statements from former Webster PR employees. These reviews stated that employees were subject to sexual harassment, angry outbursts, mood swings and discrimination. Now, more ex-employees are stepping forward with their accounts of Webster's abusive behaviors.
"There was so much verbal and emotional abuse," a female former employee told the Tennessean. "I witnessed some of the worst behavior you can imagine."
Other former Webster PR employees say Webster would exchange sexual favors with Dolly Parton fans in return for meet-and-greet passes. In the office, workers say they regularly endured inappropriate behavior. Explicit hand gestures, abusive language, unwanted touching and groping happened regularly.
"There was plenty of groping going on, I'll tell you that," an employee told Taste of Country. "Butt grabbing, that sort of thing. Kinda chuckling about it. It was a common occurrence."
Another ex-employee told Taste of Country that he was forced into performing oral sex on Webster. A similar story came from an additional female employee, who stated Webster "would grab me by the hair and air hump me, he would caress me."
Many of Webster's employees were recent college graduates or new to the music industry. The pressure of Webster's massive influence in country music and across Nashville is what many say led them to stay quiet.
Yesterday morning, the Webster PR website was replaced with a graphic that said the company had closed for business. An hour later, a statement from public relations firm DVL Seigenthaler was sent to Wide Open Country that read as follows:
"Earlier today, it was mistakenly posted on the Webster Public Relations' website that the firm has been closed. This was stated incorrectly. Webster Public Relations will continue operating - but under the name Westby Public Relations - while Kirt Webster takes some time away from the business to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him. The company's work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt's longstanding colleague."
The Webster PR website is back online, but many major country stars previously represented by the firm are no longer featured on the site. Dolly Parton, William Michael Morgan and over a dozen more country acts have had their artist pages removed. Although the move likely signals their departure from Webster PR/Westby PR, no country star has publicly commented on their relationship with the public relations firm at this time.