In a new memo to the board of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, chair and CEO Dede Wilsey says she did absolutely nothing wrong and there is absolutely nothing to worry over, despite the San Francisco Chronicle suggesting otherwise. The mini scandal arose a couple weeks back after an apparent whistle-blower, former museums CFO Michele Gutierrez, filed a complaint with the state attorney general's office over a $450,000 check she cut in May 2014 to an ailing staff member who has sense retired. Wilsey characterized this as "disability severance" and now says that she did not require board approval for the payment, for which she and Gutierrez co-signed.
Gutierrez claimed otherwise, and says that Wilsey said she would be getting board approval, however she never did, and according to an earlier column by Matier & Ross, two board members ended up resigning over the issue.
The large check was written to retired stationary engineer Bill Huggins, who worked for the Museums until suffering a heart attack last year. Huggins is married to another museum staffer, Therese Chen, who is reportedly close to Wilsey and is frequently asked to do favors for her. Chen was forced to take leave from the museum to care for her husband, which may have prompted the need for the funds.
In her memo, Wilsey says that the de Young and Legion of Honor “have never been in better operational condition” and she wanted to provide "accurate facts" about the situation in which she stands accused. She noted that after the Museums hired an investigator to look in to Gutierrez's whistle-blower claims, Gutierrez “declined to meet with the investigator.” She says that a second investigator was then hired who "found no evidence of harassment or retaliation on the job" against Gutierrez, who was demoted last year and recently put on administrative leave.
Much as her PR person did two weeks ago, Wilsey reiterated that the Attorney General's Office's charitable trust division opening an audit of the Museums had nothing to do with this situation, saying the office "routinely conducts correspondence audits of not-for-profit organizations."
She also assured the board that a new de Young director would be hired soon, and said "We have enthusiastic, qualified candidates."
Former director Colin Bailey resigned in April after barely two years on the job, opting to return instead to the job he had left in New York at the Frick.