Three months after firing its director, Forrest B. Rodgers, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture board wants him back.
The MAC board voted 11-3 early this afternoon to ask Rodgers to return to the helm of the financially struggling museum following weeks of outcry from museum members, volunteers and donors who argued that Rodgers was making positive changes when he was booted without warning.
Rodgers said after the vote that he likely will accept the offer, pending details to be worked out between his attorneys and the MAC.
“I am eager to return to the MAC and do the job for which I was hired,” Rodgers said in a phone interview while visiting family in Bend, Ore. “There are real challenges, but I’m confident that the board, staff and our key stakeholders will support me in moving forward.”
After the firing in April, MAC board members appeared shocked by the opposition and anger over the firing, and the board refused to give any explanation for Rodgers termination until two months after he was let go. The museum’s separate foundation board and American Indian Cultural Council took votes criticizing the board and asking for Rodgers’ reinstatement.
The board’s offer is contingent on Rodgers dropping his wrongful termination lawsuit. It has agreed to pay Rodgers for the time he was unemployed.
Chris Schnug, who was president of the board when Rodgers was fired, joined Ginny Butler and Barb Stanton in opposing the offer. Schnug declined to comment on the decision.
Bruce Howard, who became the MAC board president last month, said he supported the decision. The president only votes in the case of a tie.
“I certainly would have liked to have avoided where we ended up,” Howard said. “We’ve certainly lost time and lost ground.”
Rodgers, who was hired by the MAC the first time last summer, is the former president and CEO of the High Desert Museum in Bend, Ore., and former executive director of the Central Washington University Foundation.
The board’s executive committee fired Rodgers in April in a decision that violated board rules requiring that the museum director be terminated only by the governor or a vote of the full board. The full board later voted 13-7 to uphold the firing.
Following the firing, Rodgers filed a lawsuit alleging the executive board of the MAC “egregiously orchestrated and implemented the unlawful April 24 termination” while violating both state termination and open records laws.
The lawsuit followed a June 21 deadline Rodgers’ attorney, Bob Dunn, set to rehire his client or pay him $750,000. The MAC board had 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.”