May 18, 2012 in City

Legal showdown looming over museum firing

By The Spokesman-Review

The controversial firing of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Cultures director could be headed to a legal showdown.

Attorneys now representing former museum chief Forrest Rodgers say their client’s firing was illegal and therefore should be treated as if it never happened.

In a letter addressed to Chris Schnug, the president of the MAC’s board, attorneys Susan Nelson and Bob Dunn say Rodgers remains the executive director of the museum and if the board votes again to terminate him he will “assess his legal options” and may file a tort claim for more than $750,000.

The executive committee of the MAC board violated its rules April 24 when it fired Rodgers without a vote of the full board. Members of the MAC board’s executive committee have given no reason publicly for his firing, but convened a meeting of the full board on May 2 and met privately before voting 13-7 to uphold the termination.

Rodgers had requested that deliberations about his future be open to the public, but the board voted to meet in secret.

Dunn said Friday that the members who participated in the “illegal” vote of the executive committee should not have been allowed to vote in the follow-up meeting.

An attempt to reach Schnug was unsuccessful this morning.

Rodgers’ firing was extremely divisive and Rodgers continues to enjoy support of the museum’s separate foundation board.

Paul Ellyson, the foundation board president, said he supports the reinstatement of Rodgers and that the board remains united in support of him. He added, however, that it’s difficult to make a full assessment of Rodgers because the MAC board still has not explained the reasons behind Rodgers’ firing.

He said the foundation board may consider giving the executive committee of the MAC board a vote of no confidence at a meeting on Monday.

The letter from Nelson and Dunn said that the executive committee’s action is enough to trigger liability.

“However, Mr. Rodgers desires to act in accord with what he perceives to be the best interest of the community and the MAC. His preference is to retain his position at the helm and continue the fresh, innovative and professional leadership he has been publicly acknowledged to have demonstrated during his tenure.”

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