Fired Cultural Council director says that he’s the victim of a hostile takeover.
Thursday, February 5, 2004
When describing his last 16 months as director of the Cultural Council for Monterey County, David Cloutier uses phrases like “hostile takeover” and “chaos” and “vehemence.”
Cloutier, who says in January he was told he was “dismissed with cause” after serving for 14 years as the nonprofit’s director, claims not to know what is behind the termination of his employment, but says that he has hired an attorney to represent him.
Cloutier says he was shut out of meetings between board members. And when he was on vacation last November, he says, the board went behind his back and terminated the Council’s popular World Music Festival.
“It’s really hard to understand, but ultimately it seems they were out to get rid of me,” he says. “They were certainly out to get rid of the World Music Festival.”
The Cultural Council, which receives money from the state, the county, and other groups, distributes grants to support arts programs, such as the Carmel Bach Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Pacific Grove Art Center, the Henry Miller Library, as well as a program that puts artists in local schools, and many smaller groups.
Interim director Walt deFaria says that the Council, which he describes as “a re-granting arm of the Board of Supervisors,” eliminated the World Music Festival for financial reasons.
“It lost money for three years, and it’s not the fundraiser it’s supposed to be,” deFaria says. He says the top priority of the council now is to raise funds in anticipation of next year’s likely budget cuts from the state and the county, which he says could be as much as 40 percent.
Cloutier readily agrees that the World Music Festival, which just finished its seventh year, would have to go if budget cuts take place. But he says the Festival’s demise resulted from a difference in philosophies.
“In March of last year they started to stack the board to do the takeover,” he says. “The World Music Festival is emblematic of the vision that we were putting forward. But the people who [attended the Festival] aren’t the same folks who go to classical music in Carmel.
“I felt it was important to target these folks and welcome them. There were people dancing on the lawn, and it’s not the normal kind of event. The desire of the Council now is to move away from that kind of program.”
Cultural Council president Diane Frudden would not comment on Cloutier’s dismissal, stating it was a “confidential personnel matter.”
Kellie Morgantini, the Council’s former president, says she quit last summer over frustrations that the board couldn’t come to a consensus and ignored dissenting opinions.
“I’ve done a lot of nonprofit work and there are always varying opinions,” she says. “It helps you form a better program, as long as all the different voices in the group are heard. After a year of becoming president it was very clear to me that the [Council board’s] way of working together wasn’t entirely honest and open…it wasn’t working.
“I’m an attorney, and my biggest job is to mediate between people who don’t agree. I couldn’t do that with [Council] committee meetings. I think the new board had a basic difference in philosophy over what the Cultural Council meant.”
Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter, who sits on the Cultural Council’s board, says that Cloutier couldn’t get along with board members, and his claims of being the victim of a hostile takeover are nothing but “inflammatory rhetoric.”
“Unfortunately, there was a personality clash between him and some of the board members,” Potter says. “He’s claiming that he’s being railroaded, but he doesn’t get along with the current board, and he stopped going to meetings. He felt that it was a witch hunt, that the board was out to get him, but I simply see a board that won’t rubberstamp what he wants.
“It would be a shame to see this be the reason why the Cultural Council collapses.”
Cloutier says he has the same concerns, and says he is worried about arts’ programs in the community suffering.
“This reflects a broader dynamic going on in the community,” he says.