The embattled board of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture got an earful Tuesday from museum supporters as the board president vowed to resolve a lawsuit filed last week in response to the controversial firing of director Forrest Rodgers.
After an open meeting, the board met behind closed doors to privately discuss the lawsuit filed by Rodgers, who alleges the executive board of the MAC “egregiously orchestrated and implemented the unlawful April 24 termination” of Rodgers while violating both state termination and open records laws. But the board came out of the session without voting on any action.
The lawsuit follows a June 21 deadline Rodgers’ attorney, Bob Dunn, set to rehire his client or pay him $750,000. The MAC board earlier this month indicated the termination was related to Rodgers’ “poor performance” and offered two months of pay and a letter of recommendation if he didn’t sue. Dunn called the offer “ludicrous” and “insulting.”
“My hope is we can resolve this amicably and take whatever steps are in everybody’s best interests,” board President Bruce Howard said. “I do understand the public’s frustration.”
David Snowdon, one of many residents who attended the meeting, complained that the public can’t interact with the board if it holds secret meetings.
“Some of us feel the MAC doesn’t answer to the public. It’s a huge problem,” Snowdon said. “The public is an incredible force, and you are depending on us.”
Board member Cece Perko agreed, saying the museum can’t survive without public support.
“A lot of people involved with the MAC feel the same frustration,” Perko said. “We are working at getting the problems solved and I support bringing Forrest back … but there is some process we can’t avoid.”
Many of the public speakers pointed out that the unavoidable process came as a result of the board’s actions.
The board’s executive committee fired Rodgers in April in a vote that violated board rules requiring that the museum director be terminated only by the governor or a vote of the full board. That body later voted 13-7 to uphold the firing, which prompted the museum’s separate foundation board to unanimously call for the resignation of the MAC board’s executive committee.
“We’ve lost the public trust in a huge way,” Victor Azar, who runs the cafe at the MAC, told the board. “We need to get it back.”