6 Detroit Institute of Arts board members resign in protest of director Salort-Pons

March 29, 2021, 4:59 PM

About a tenth of the Detroit Institute of Arts' board has resigned in protest of keeping Salvador Salort-Pons as director after an independent review found he fostered a toxic work environment by retaliating against staff who diagreed with him, among other issues.

Six of 54 elected board members resigned on Monday, according to The Detroit News. They are Anne Fredericks, Mary Ann Gorlin, Julie Rothstein, Suzanne Shank, Carol Walters and Celeste Watkins-Hayes. Marc Schwartz, a member of the nonvoting emeritus board, also resigned in protest.

The findings by the law firm Crowell & Moring were shared at a November meeting of the board and leaked via a secret recording disseminated to media earlier this month. Staffers with the firm said the review described Salort-Pons' leadership style as "autocratic" and found issues with race-based hiring, The News reported at the time.

Staff reported that Salort-Pans on multiple occasions directed managers to hire applicants based solely on their race but without regard for their qualifications, Crowell and Moring lawyer Ellen Moran Dwyer says on the recording. One of the applicants was an African-American woman with no previous experience hired to fill a curator role.

"When I say to you that we found that Salvador had directed a manager to hire someone based solely on their race without regard to their qualifications, that is actually unlawful conduct," she said. ...

Other times, Dwyer said, "both current and former employees recounted multiple instances in which Salvador retaliated against them for disagreeing with his viewpoint for making complaints to the human resources department or complaining to Salvador directly."

One staff member was demoted within weeks of complaining, was stripped of some duties and watched a lower-level worker be promoted, another Crowell lawyer, Preston Pugh, told the board. She soon resigned, he said.

Salort-Pons has since been receiving leadership coaching.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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