UPDATED: Museum of Monterey Executive Director Quits; City Manager "Extremely Concerned" About MoM's Future
June 13, 2011
Monterey's fragile hopes for its newly revamped maritime museum have been dashed with today's news that Executive Director John Bailey has quit. Bailey's resignation comes just nine days after the Museum of Monterey (formerly the Monterey History and Maritime Museum) reopened with much fanfare after a 15-month hiatus; in the wake of numerous recent exits by MoM staff; and amidst community murmurs about Board mismanagement and conflicts of interest.
"I've loved working for the Museum," Bailey said Monday from his home in Pebble Beach. He declined to comment further on the circumstances that led to his resignation, but added, "I see myself as a fixer," implying that if he couldn't help a wayward organization, it couldn't be done.
City Councilmember Nancy Selfridge concurred. "John is very highly regarded in the Monterey community," Selfridge said Monday. "The fact that he couldn't take it anymore says a lot."
Bailey also mentioned that during his last stint as executive director from 2005-2006, he presented the museum's Board of Directors with a business plan that would have served as a road map to financial solvency.
"I suggested several steps to solve their financial problems, including selling a house that at that time I was told by realtors we'd get $2.5 million for," Bailey said. "The Board could have started an endowment, but they didn't do it. They ended up selling it last year for less than $1 million."
The current Board, impressed by Bailey's rejected business plan of yore, asked him back late last year in part because they needed his fiscal leadership. Bailey was scheduled to present a financial assessment of the museum to the Board and City Council June 30, but his departure makes the future of that report uncertain. A museum staffer who chose to remain anonymous told the Weekly, "The decisions and actions I have seen made by the Board are sloppy, inefficient and immature." The source cited numerous alleged conflicts of interest involving contracts awarded to friends of Board President Tom Hood and other Board members for consulting and construction services without ever being put out to bid.
"Andre Mirpolsky, who did the museum's new mural, is good friends with [Board member] Mark Baer," Selfridge added. "[The musem] didn't do a public bidding process at all to try and get someone local." Museum staff were not available for comment Monday.
Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Hood called those allegations "completely outrageous. Everyone hired was not the only one considered. The fact that I may have a professional relationship with one of these people is for the benefit of the organization." Additionally, Hood said that Bailey had not contacted him about resigning, nor about the fact that his financial report was not yet complete. "I sincerely regret that John has reportedly resigned," Hood said. "I'd love to be able to have a conversation with him, and I wish that had occurred before he made this decision."
Tim Thomas, who worked as a curator and historian at the museum for 16 years and did a brief stint as interim executive director before being laid off in fall 2009, recalled his unexplained "throwing out" by museum leadership "just awful." When Hood returned to him several months later, imploring him for help with new exhibits and apologizing for his Board's treatment of Thomas, "I decided to go down and help them, to make sure the stories they're telling are accurate. Then I found out that they were using my name to lure other folks who weren't willing to participate, and I was very upset." Hood called Thomas's allegations "complete fabrications."
Perhaps the most damning words about the supposedly new and improved museum were issued by Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer in a memo sent Friday to Bailey. Ostensibly regarding a financial review of the museum Bailey was working on (and which is now in limbo due to his departure), Meurer quickly segues into a larger discussion of MoM's future. "I continue to be extremely concerned that the [Monterey History and Art Association, which runs the museum] lacks a sound exhibit and interpretation, business and operational plans," Meurer wrote. He goes on to say that the City would like to see a plan from MoM to "allay concerns about the museum's new direction."
"I regret that [Bailey] made the decision to keep that memo confidential from the Board," Hood said. As to the museum's current financial state, he added, "The organization is not in trouble. We had 1500 people come in in our first two days [June 4 and 5], we've been doing very brisk retail sales, and we're fulfilling the mission of the museum: tell the stories of Monterey through arts, innovation, history and maritime stories." They'll have to do so without an executive director at the helm—at least for now.