The Board of Directors of Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is aware of the inflammatory statements by former Museum Director Elysia Borowy-Reeder and her attorney, Melvin Butch Hollowell regarding her termination on July 29, 2020. The Board of Directors provides the following statement in response:
Ms. Borowy-Reeder’s contention that she was dismissed by the Board of Directors without the opportunity to defend herself is incorrect. On numerous occasions, beginning July 15, 2020 through the date of her termination, counsel for the Board of Directors, proposed dates and meetings to Mr. Hollowell to allow Ms. Borowy-Reeder the opportunity to advocate on her own behalf. Subsequent dates of contact to the office of Ms. Bowery-Reeder’s attorney occurred throughout July, including on the 17th, 20th—on which counsel for the Board spoke with Mr. Hollowell about wanting to interview Ms. Borowy-Reeder, 21st, 23rd, and the 24th both over email and voicemail. On each occasion, counsel for the Board indicated to Mr. Hollowell that it wanted to interview Ms. Borowy-Reeder and proposed multiple dates on which to do so. Mr. Hollowell failed to respond to these numerous requests with his and his client’s availability to speak. On counsel’s call on the 20th, Ms. Bowery-Reeder’s counsel asked if it was the practice of the Board of Directors to interview someone in his client’s position towards the end of the investigation, to which the Board’s counsel indicated in the affirmative.
Ms. Borowy-Reeder alleges she learned of her termination through the media. However, on July 29th, after the vote to terminate Ms. Borowy-Reeder, the Board’s counsel called the office of Mr. Hollowell at approximately 11:30 am and emailed at noon, to notify them of the vote of termination.
The Board regrets that Ms. Borowy-Reeder did not make herself available for an interview, despite attempts made over a two-week period. However, the investigators had reached the end of their investigation, and in the interest of current employees and the wider MOCAD community, the Board was unwilling to indefinitely postpone a resolution while we awaited her reply for an interview.
The Board reiterates its termination of Ms. Borowy-Reeder was in response to an investigation. Over 300 artists and 80 current and former MOCAD employees wrote or were signatories on letters condemning Ms. Borowy-Reeder, sparking the investigation.
Prior to the termination of Ms. Borowy-Reeder the Board ordered an investigation into these allegations. Allison O'Neil of the Boston law firm Locke Lord LLP conducted the investigation in which over 100 individuals shared their accounts. The vast majority of the individuals who contacted us expressed concerns or reported complaints about Ms. Bowery-Reeder. The investigation revealed the following results:
• Credible accounts of poor management
• Credible accounts of bullying employees
• Credible accounts of favorable treatment of certain employees over others
• Credible accounts of ethically-questionable decision-making
Ms. Borowy-Reeder claims she was awarded a $5,000 bonus in June for her handling of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Board wishes to clarify that this amount was not a performance-based bonus, and rather, was an advance of Ms. Borowy-Reeder’s contractual annual bonus.
Since MOCAD opened in 2006 we have actively been a space that provides a center for diverse voices, programs and exhibitions. Through Ms. Borowy-Reeder’s termination, the Board sought to reaffirm the mission of MOCAD’s founders to establish a diverse and equitable museum institution. Ms. Borowy-Reeder’s allegation that the Board perpetuates racism is outrageous and completely contrary to the values we uphold.
The Board has been meeting with current and former employees, artists, foundations and other stakeholders to consider how we and other forward-thinking museums should look as we move ahead. As Chair of the Board of Directors I am committed to MOCAD serving as an agent for change.
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