SF grand dame and gossip column centerpiece Dede Wilsey has been making news recently for things that don't involve museum balls, fired curators, or her stepson. Last month we heard the first rumbling that Wilsey had been accused of financial misconduct related to an unapproved cash gift from the de Young Museum's coffers to a former staffer, who was ill. Now mustache twins Matier and Ross have some more fuel to add the fire, reporting that former San Francisco Fine Arts Museums CFO Michele Gutierrez, who was demoted last spring to financial director, was subsequently fired after being the whistle-blower in this financial misconduct claim.
The Fine Arts Museums encompass both the deYoung and the Legion of Honor and share administrative and curatorial staff.
Compounding the unfortunateness of Gutierrez's story is the fact that she was on family leave as the story broke after she filed an official complaint in October about Wilsey with state Attorney General Kamala Harris due to having to care for a cancer-stricken father. He has since passed away, but while she was still on leave she allegedly received a call via her lawyer brother from the museum asking if she'd rather resign or be fired. She was subsequently put on administrative leave.
Per the Chron, there is no specific whistle-blower protection for non-profit workers in California, and an outside consultant had already certified that Gutierrez was not improperly demoted, according to the museums.
At issue is a payment Wilsey ordered, without prior approval from the museums' 46-member board of directors, of $450,000 to a former stationary engineer assigned to the museums, Bill Huggins. Huggins had been collecting a $56,580 annual pension since suffering a heart attack and retiring in September 2014, but in May 2014, Wilsey asked Gutierrez to cut the check for Huggins, who had perhaps only recently suffered the heart attack, characterizing it as "disability severance."
Though Wilsey told Gutierrez she'd be seeking board approval, she apparently never did, and the incident led to the resignation of board members Bernard Osher and Jack McDonald.
Should the payment be deemed improper, it could threaten the museums' 501(c)3 non-profit status.
Via a publicist for Wilsey and the museums, Wilsey declined to comment on this "individual employee matter."