Arts Director Fired Over False Resume City Manager Cites ‘Serious Credibility Problem’
Carolyn Frances Lair’s stellar resume helped her land a job as Spokane’s arts director.
It also got her canned.
Acting City Manager Bill Pupo fired Lair on Monday after an investigation proved she had lied about her academic background.
“She presented herself as the right person,” said Pupo. “But with these problems with her resume, there’s a serious credibility problem.”
In the future, prospective employees will undergo tougher background checks, Pupo said.
Lair, 43, was hired in June for the $41,000-a-year post.
Reached at home Monday afternoon, she refused to comment. “I think you should just print any old thing you want,” she said.
Arts Commission member Betty Hennessey praised Lair’s performance and said she was devastated by the news.
“She had obvious talents,” said Hennessey, adding that Lair had presented herself to the commission in a “theatrical” manner.
In announcing the firing, Pupo cited three major discrepancies in Lair’s resume:
Her claim to have received a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1982.
University officials said she received a bachelor’s in communications in 1992.
Her claim that she was in the fourth year of two master’s programs at Simon Fraser - one in public administration, the other in cultural geography.
University officials said they don’t offer a master’s in public administration, and they had no record of her enrollment in any other graduate course.
Her claim to have received an associate of fine arts degree in sculpture from the Emily Carr School of Art and Design, also in Vancouver, in 1984.
School officials said they don’t offer a degree in sculpture.
The discrepancies - reported by The Spokesman-Review - surfaced after Ralph Busch, a city Arts Department employee, hired an attorney to help protect his job.
Busch, passed over for the director’s post, said tensions between him and Lair made him fear he’d be fired. He went to attorney Paul Mack for advice, and Mack hired a private detective to dig into Lair’s background.
Attempts to reach Busch on Monday were unsuccessful.
City Personnel Director Jim Smith said he told Lair last week to provide him with copies of her college diplomas. She came back with one transcript from Simon Fraser, he said.
Smith sat down with Lair on Monday to tell her she was fired, effective immediately. She took it “very quietly,” he said.
The Personnel Department carefully researches resumes, but Lair was chosen by the Arts Commission and then hired by former City Manager Roger Crum, Pupo said.
The city’s arts director works under the direction of the commission. The director, who oversees a $105,000 annual budget, coordinates exhibits for the Chase Gallery and city arts tours.
Arts Commission members chose Lair from a field of 86 applicants, Hennessey said. While they studied the resumes, she said they didn’t “call up the schools. … We took these people’s resumes as gospel.”
From now on, Pupo said, all resumes will be fact-checked by the Personnel Department.
Arts Commission President Jack Phillips said Monday he still has “absolute confidence” in Lair.
“It doesn’t make any difference” that she didn’t have the degrees she said she did, Phillips said, adding that the job required only a bachelor of arts degree.
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