Ever since the Guardian reported on recent firings and allegations of improper behavior by senior staff at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), we’ve received a great deal of correspondence relating to the museums. The barbs continue to fly as current and former museum staff members describe an intimidating internal atmosphere within the city's charitable trust departments, which Curator Emeritus Robert Flynn Johnson has termed "Orwellian dysfunction." Just this afternoon, another letter arrived -- with no return address.
Dated March 20, it was addressed to Richard Benefield, Deputy Director of the de Young. Here’s the text in full, with our own links inserted to clarify the issues the writer is referencing:
“What a ridiculous and absurd Dept. Head Meeting yesterday!
“Aside from the competent I.T. report … how could you expect even a singular response regarding the recent media attention when everyone in the room has been completely intimidated and muted into silence?
“You, sir, are operating with the same delusion as our board president.
“‘Orwellian Dysfunction’ doesn’t even begin to describe the underlying rage, resentment, and disloyalty among most of us still employed by this institution.”
The letter goes on to name three top-ranking museum staff members, calling them “the greatest threat to this museum’s future function and credibility. If Colin Bailey cannot swiftly address these problem individuals, provide the city and public with a transparent accounting of its operating budget, reinstate board president term limits, and modify the draconian time clock surveillance system for our once dedicated hourly workers, then its [sic] certain that the probing press will only continue.”
Additional recipients were listed as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee; Colin Bailey (rumored to have been selected as the new director of the de Young); FAMSF Board of Trustees President Diane “Dede” Wilsey; San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jesse Hamlin (who managed to get Wilsey on the phone; she ignored Guardian requests for an interview); New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen and arts journalist Lee Rosenbaum.
The Guardian left a message for Ken Garcia, spokesperson for the museums, to share the contents of the letter and request comment. So far, he has not responded.
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