Babacar M’Bow Fired From MOCA North Miami After Sexual Harassment Charges
M'Bow denies the allegations made by several staff members.
Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami director Babacar M’Bow has been fired from the institution following several weeks of paid administrative leave in response to allegations of sexual harassment as well as a lack of appropriate supervision over employees, according to a termination letter sent to M’Bow by interim city director Arthur Sorey. Sorey made the decision to dismiss M’Bow on December 31, following weeks of investigation into a complaint made by Tiffany Madera, the museum’s outreach and programming manager.
According to the investigation, several employees testified that M’Bow often used graphic, sexual language and innuendo to and around staff members, particularly women.
In her claim, Madera noted that M’Bow had commented on her sex life, openly discussed the size of his genitalia, and told employees they needed to “get laid.” During the December 8 staff meeting that spawned her complaint, M’Bow allegedly told the museum’s assistant director, Alan Waufle, to take a female vendor out and “show her a good time.” Waufle responded by calling the woman a “skanky bitch,” which led to a verbal disagreement between he and Madera. Madera claims M’Bow then interrupted her and told her to stop using “feminist rhetoric.”
Madera also claims that during a staff outing to a bar in May, M’Bow told her and fellow museum employee Adrienne Von Lates that he “[likes] to work in a sexually explicit and open environment,” and asked Madera how many times a week she and her boyfriend were intimate. After Madera complained days later that the interaction had made her uncomfortable, M’Bow apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
Waufle, who was suspended for three days following the December 8 incident, stated in a December 28 interview that the comments regarding the female vendor began as a conversation about how to thank her but quickly escalated to harassment from M’Bow, which included him making a statement about “servicing women.” According to the report, Waufle went on to describe multiple instances of M’Bow using explicit sexual language like “she wants my swinging dick,” in reference to a woman he had just met with.
“Based on the findings of the city’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against you, as well as your lack of appropriate supervision over your subordinate employees, I lack confidence in your ability to continue to serve as the spokesperson and chief advocate for the museum,” Sorey wrote in M’Bow’s termination letter.
In his interview with investigators, M’Bow denied the allegations brought against him by Madera and other members of the staff.
“It is clear that the allegations are false; they are the reaction of an employee who thought I was going to fire her on Jan. 1,” he said during an interview with investigators. “I have felt a certain level of discomfort that the city could have handled this better.”
“I am married to a feminist scholar, this complaint is not part of my intellectual development, I have strong feminist politics,” M’Bow stated.
City chief of staff Natasha Colebrook-Williams is slated to lead the museum on an interim basis, while Sorey and the city council begin the search for a new director.
“We have to have a museum director and we’re not going to rush. We’re going to make sure we get the right museum director,” Sorey told the Miami Herald.
M’Bow was appointed director in April 2014, during a period of turmoil for the museum. As the former board of directors planned their exit to open ICA Miami, concerns arose about the museum’s ability to stay afloat. A legal battle between the institution, the former directors, and the city ensued. There was talk of a merger with the Bass Museum, and the museum even briefly shuttered during the controversy.
At the time during which M’Bow was interviewing for the role, the city moved to hire him, but he was rejected by board members after he refused to participate in a background check. He then attempted to seize power over the institution, holding a symposium in the building without permission from the board, who was still battling his appointment. A subsequent email exchange involved accusations of racism.
After the board officially decamped to the Institute of Contemporary Art, M’Bow began his tenure as the institution’s uncontested leader. He was officially hired by the city at a salary of $100,505, and quickly established a new board of trustees.
M’Bow’s dismissal is effective immediately; he was given until the end of the day on January 4 to retrieve any personal belongings from the museum.
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