Wednesday, May 23, 2012

MAC boards hold open forum: Still no answers on Rodgers firing

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Those who came to the joint meeting of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture's board of trustees, executive board and tribal representatives this afternoon expecting an answer as to why Executive Director Forrest Rodgers was terminated last month left disappointed...and, for some, angry.

The ongoing kerfuffle over the dismissal of Rodgers after less than nine months on the job continues, despite what appeared to be an effort on behalf of the MAC's board to calm the waters.

The meeting, which included presentations on the museum's financial strategies for the first hour, featured an open forum for the public to voice opinions. Quickly, the mood soured among the public gathered in the Cheney Cowles Center when the board president made it clear that the issue of Rodgers' firing would not be addressed.

"I've said this over and over again, as has every other board member. This is a personnel matter," said board of trustee president Chris Schnug. "It will not be discussed in public."

Soon, a chorus of boos of boos erupted, at which point nearly half of the non-board members in attendance got up to leave. Someone shouted out for people to stay. Many of those who'd gotten up stuck around.

In the hour that followed, several community members and museum stakeholders spoke.

Included was John Matt of the Spokane Tribe, who spoke on behalf of the American Indian Cultural Council, stating that the group had unanimously voted that Rodgers should be reinstated as director.

Several other donors, volunteers and former board members spoke in support of Rodgers and expressed concerns over the handling of his firing.

Others had more pointed criticism of the executive board that chose to terminate Rodgers.

"The issue is you have, in my opinion, an arrogant, self-centered, jackass of an executive board," said Jerry Dicker, a real estate executive who has become a key player in downtown Spokane and the city's arts by purchasing the Bing Crosby Theater, the Ruby Hotel, and most recently, the Interplayer's Theater building.

Dicker, whose wife is one of the dissenting voices on the board of trustees, then called on the executive board members to resign, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the public comment period.

"If their interest is benefiting the MAC and helping the MAC, they should resign," he said.

Board of Trustees member Jim Sullivan then took to the podium to announce that the MAC's foundation — the museum's fundraising arm —had asked that "the American Association of Museums to be called in to investigate the issues and act as a neutral facilitator" to bring the boards and tribal representatives together to formulate a plan to move the museum forward.

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