Detroit Institute of Arts Board Members Quit in Protest of Leadership
Six elected board members of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) – Anne Fredericks, Mary Ann Gorlin, Julie Rothstein, Suzanne Shank, Carol Walters and Celeste Watkins-Hayes – have resigned after a board committee voted on Friday to oversee museum director Salvator Salort . Pons rather than firing him for what employees have characterized as aggressive, harassing, insular and in some cases illegal leadership style. A seventh elected board member resigned, citing professional obligations instead of pointing out the retention of Salort-Pons.
Those who stepped down in protest were all dissenting members of a nineteen-member executive committee that decided by a majority vote that Salort-Pons, who has headed the institution since 2015, should remain in his post even after outside law firms Crowell and Moring late last year, the company said The board issued an investigation report, the confidential presentation of which had been leaked, describing the museum director as “unpredictable, autocratic, condescending, intolerant of dissent and lacking clear and effective communication”. Employees said Salort-Pons retaliated against those who disagreed with him and that he hired applicants who violated federal law only because of their race or gender. The report also revealed that women in leadership positions have left the facility more frequently than men over the past five years, and that Pons had “a lack of opportunity with racial issues”. Investigators found that of the 22 current and former museum employees surveyed, many were afraid to speak to them.
“I thank each of these directors for their service and support, and I regret these resignations have taken place,” said CEO Eugene Gargaro in a statement referring to the members’ resignation. “I wish they had all stayed and continued to work with us to help the DIA reach its full potential. I am confident that our board members will continue to make important and productive contributions as we work together to shape the future of DIA. “
Before the departures, the board consisted of fifty-four elected members, thirty-two non-voting emeritus members (one of whom had also resigned for unspecified reasons) and forty-four honorary members.