The termination of the employment of the long-time manager of the Creston Museum has caused a furor in the community, a divide between the museum board and members of the Museum society.
Some 90 people gathered in front of the museum on Saturday, August 25, to protest the firing of Tammy Bradford, Museum manager for 25 years, after a requisition form was placed at Kingfisher Books calling for a public meeting for the board to explain its actions, and calling for the removal of the members of the Board who had opinions and were making decisions that many members of the museum and in the community do not agree with.
Pat Martin, one of the protesters, said that Bradford was fired, by text, while on holidays, earlier this summer.
“She was texted while on holidays, that she would not be serving the Museum’s needs as manager anymore,” Martin said.
“This woman has gone out of her way to be in the community, bringing our history out to people, letting all ages know that Creston has a rich and important history that we don’t want to lose. She has maintained the displays and the tours, she’s hired people, she’s organized events there.
“She’s lifted the museum out of the realm that so many museums tend to get into where they’re dusty and unused. She’s brought this museum to life.”
Martin said the way Bradford’s employment at the museum was ended, and the ensuing silence as to its reasons, has led to a storm of speculation.
“It’s just shocking. We don’t treat people like this in Creston,” Martin said.
“The members direct the board, the board directs the employees. But if the board is directing the employees without consult, especially in the case of a strong action like this, it was acting on its own recognizance on this and it is not sitting well with people.”
Martin said the board is claiming that because there is potential litigation on the horizon, they would be at fault if they were to leak details.
A statement prepared by Luke Kurata, Board President, stressed that “without consent by an employee, which includes volunteer board members, disclosure by any person privy to that information is prohibited by law … While the board members have respected this disclosure prohibition the supporters of the dismissed employee have circulated many disclosures and accusations of criminal behaviour,” the statement read.
“Governance demands the exercise of control and the assumption of responsibility,” the statement continued. “Where responsibility is placed on one component of an organization and control on another, an organization is ultimately destined to falter, be that in bankruptcy, loss of relevance or closure.
“Without disclosing personal information, the reader might reasonably assume the Society was headed in such a direction where those who bore ultimate responsibility through fiduciary duties and the duty of loyalty were unable to achieve a level of control commensurate with their responsibility.
“Without the consent of this aggrieved former employee, the popular movement to terminate and replace the current board in the climate of accusations of criminal behaviour will likely succeed and conceal all responsible actions and decision s of the current board in the execution of their lawful duties under the BC Societies Act. Their first duty under that statute is the fiduciary duty to act lawfully and make lawful decisions in the best interests of the Society, and the second is known as the duty of loyalty, or the duty to place the Society above all other loyalties where such loyalties conflict. As between a society and an employee, a board member’s loyalty and fiduciary duty must be resolved in the best interests of the Society.”
The Creston Valley Services Committee will be having a meeting on Sept 7 at 9 a.m. in the Creston Room at the Rec Center to which Museum Board directors have been invited to discuss the issue and to ensure that grant money will not be at risk if litigation occurs. Grants of concern from the RDCK and the Town of Creston can total over $100,000 annually. The meeting which was to be “in camera” will now be open to the public.
“Following that, the Museum Board is holding a meeting Sept 11 at 7 P.M. at Trinity United Church, which was called…” in response to the requisition, which had been in place at Kingfisher Books to be signed by Society members (a requisition is formal request or demand, which might be a demand from groups like shareholders or society members to a board of directors, requiring them to vote on any resolutions that are proposed).
Martin said many of the signees were long-standing members of the Museum Society, and some were new members, who heard about Tammy’s firing and wanted to be part of an action to cause the Board to have another look at this.
The requisition asked for an explanation of why Bradford was fired, and called for a removal of the Board members who were in support of Bradford’s termination of employment.
The Board statement added that:
“An independent court appointed auditor at this stage of the controversy would be best positioned to examine evidence in preference to speculation, and to determine if the board went awry. Such an evidence based transparent examination would best satisfy the concerned public.”
The board will also not be processing the recent applications for museum society membership. At the Board’s meeting on August 23, the following motions concerning memberships were passed, upon advice from legal counsel.
“WHEREAS the society faces potential litigation; (b) AND WHEREAS the directors are of the view that pausing all non-essential functions is necessary to allow time to stabilize the organization and to protect the society’s best interests; (c) THEREFORE, be it resolved that the society’s board temporarily pause all considerations of applications for membership until such time as the directors are of the view that the society is sufficiently stabilized.”