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New members could change MAC board’s stance on dispute

Fri., June 22, 2012

Four new members of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture board could shift how the museum resolves its dispute with its terminated leader.

The new president of the board, Bruce Howard, this week appointed four new members who were on the museum’s separate foundation board when that group voted unanimously to criticize the April firing of Forrest Rodgers.

Early Thursday afternoon, the MAC board met privately to discuss a possible lawsuit that could be filed by Rodgers. But the board appears unlikely to avoid a lawsuit. Rodgers’ attorney, Bob Dunn, said Thursday that Rodgers never received a response to a letter demanding he either be reinstated or paid $750,000. In a phone call Thursday, however, the MAC’s attorney said the museum is interested in mediating a settlement, but she was not prepared to offer a specific deal, Dunn said.

“My client has done his best to avoid a lawsuit,” Dunn said. “No one has even bothered to respond to our letter.”

The board’s bylaws give the board president the power to appoint members to vacant seats if the board’s operations committee recommends the new members. Howard said the committee recommended the appointments of all new members.

At the end of the meeting, the board publicly voted to give Howard the right to represent the board in working to resolve the dispute with Rodgers.

The new members are Al Payne, a local developer; Rich Marll, who works for Itron; Cece Perko, the former owner of a travel agency and tour company; and Shaun O’L. Higgins, managing partner of a local consulting firm and retired director of sales and marketing for The Spokesman-Review.

Perko, who was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting, said she believes rehiring Rodgers remains a possibility. She said Rodgers has “a wonderful track record.”

“Our goal is to see how we can pick up the pieces,” Perko said. “That would be a goal … to get Forrest back in the job.”

Rodgers was terminated by the executive committee of the MAC board in April in a decision that violated board rules requiring that the museum director be fired only by the governor or by a vote of the full board. The full board later upheld the decision to dismiss Rodgers.

Earlier this month, an attorney representing the MAC board offered Rodgers two months of pay and a letter of recommendation if he didn’t sue and signed a “non-disparagement” agreement. The board also for the first time outlined reasons he was fired, including “poor performance.”

Dunn rejected the MAC’s offer last week and set a deadline for today for the MAC to rehire Rodgers or pay him $750,000, according to a letter he sent to Assistant Attorney General Maureen McGuire, who represents the MAC. If the deadline is missed, Dunn said last week, he will file a lawsuit against the museum, which is a state agency, and some members of the executive committee that made the original decision to terminate Rodgers.

Dunn said his lawsuit will name the museum and three board members, Chris Schnug, Ron Rector and David Brukardt.

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