DIA Board Members Resign Amidst Controversy Surrounding Director

DETROIT, March 30, 2021 ~ Several trustees from the Detroit Institute of Arts have resigned following multiple controversies surrounding Museum Director Salvador Salort-Pons.

Controversy began last summer, when there was an ethical breach involving the director receiving a loaned El Greco painting owned by his father-in-law, according to reports. Another report – from a recording of a meeting, leaked earlier this month – said that employees described Director Salort-Pons as “erratic, autocratic, condescending, intolerant of dissent, and lacking in clear and effective communication.”

At least seven board members apparently felt so strongly that DIA was not addressing significant employee concerns and leadership failures that they resigned in protest,” says John Tye, chief executive at nonprofit Washington DC firm Whistleblower Aid, the group that supplied leaked audio to media outlets. “It also means that those responsible for the ethical lapses and culture of fear at DIA will have an even stronger hand to stifle dissent.”

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March 30, 2021 ~ Chairman of the Detroit Institute of Arts Gene Gargano explains to Paul W. why members of the DIA board have resigned.

Investigators in the recording talked about employees’ fear of retaliation, saying that the director lacks “facility with race-related issues.” In addition, it was also reported that female employees felt they were treated “less favorably than their male peers on the compensation front.”

Following this, a confidential employee hotline was instated, as well as performance plans for the director.

An employee survey included the question “Here at the DIA, my opinions seem to count.” 48% of employees in 2016 agreed, while in 2020, only 10% of workers agreed.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans spoke on the resignations Monday afternoon.

The residents of Detroit and Wayne County voted to support the DIA millage, in part, because the museum’s leadership and board members made assurances it would work harder and more diligently to address issues of equity and inclusion. To be clear: Those assurances remain unmet.