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August 02, 2016

San Francisco Museums' Head Casts Doubt on Reports of Exit

Diane “Dede” Wilsey, the well-connected Bay Area philanthropist and socialite who has long been the dominant figure at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, appears to be gearing up for a fight to retain her influence at the institution, according to The New York Times. Ms. Wilsey, the museums' chief executive and board chair, told the Times in an email that she had “not been asked to step down and [I] am not planning to retire,” as was reported last week by the San Francisco Chronicle and other outlets.

News of her purported exit after 20 years as a leadership fixture followed a board decision to pay a $2 million settlement to a former chief financial officer who alleged she was fired for blowing the whistle on an unauthorized $457,000 payment Ms. Wilsey steered to an ailing former staff member. Media reports said Ms. Wilsey would be replaced as board chair when the body next meets in October.

In the email, Ms. Wilsey did not make clear in what capacity she intends to stay with the organization, which operates the de Young and Legion of Honor museums, but she expressed a willingness to work with the institution’s “wonderful” new director, Max Hollein, whom the Chronicle reported was set to take over CEO duties. Dan Johnson, one of four ex-board members who resigned amid the payment flap, said the two trustees reportedly in in line to co-chair the board are "cronies" of Ms. Wilsey and questioned whether the reorganization will do "anything other than change the deck chairs on the Titanic

."