Tribunal Finds No Reason For Firing of Frankfurt Ethnographic Museum Director

The reasons for her dismissal remain opaque.

The former director of Frankfurt’s Ethnographic Museum, Clémentine Deliss, has been awarded a severance of €125,000 ($140,768) in withheld salary by a Frankfurt court, after she was suddenly and unceremoniously sacked without explanation in May 2015.

The contract between the 56-year-old Briton, who took up the position in 2010, and the city of Frankfurt was due to run for another three years. The former director subsequently took the city to court over her dismissal.

According to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the city was forced to admit at court that there was no valid reason for Deliss’s dismissal. According to a joint statement recently issued by Deliss and the city, the former director was fired because of a “misunderstanding over the manner of execution of Mrs. Deliss’s duties.”

Prior to the hearing at Frankfurt’s Employment Tribunal, there had been extensive speculation over the reasons behind Deliss’s dismissal across the German art scene.

The Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One rumor suggested that the director had tried to sell eleven copies of her own book and four further publications to the museum’s library for €2,300 ($2,590). The city saw the attempted sale as a breach of contract and enforced an immediate termination of the former director’s contract.

However, the accusations turned out to be false when documents were presented proving that Deliss had followed protocol my submitting a form requesting funds for the purchase of the books, leading the tribunal to conclude that no formal contract had been breached.

Accusations that Deliss tried to sell the museum something that it didn’t need at an inflated price were also quashed when her lawyers were able to show that a British university bought the same book package for a comparable price of €2,400 ($2,702.)

Reportedly, throughout the fiasco, nobody consulted Deliss. Neither Frankfurt’s Mayor Peter Feldmann, who is politically responsible for the dismissal, nor the city’s head of cultural affairs, Feliz Semmelroth, sought to clarify the misunderstanding in a personal conversation.

Deliss failed to push through a desperately needed €80 million ($90 million) expansion. Photo: Weltkulturen Museum

Deliss failed to push through a desperately needed €80 million ($90 million) expansion.
Photo: Weltkulturen Museum

In another twist to the plot, the embarrassing revelation emerged that the dissolution papers have been drawn up before Deliss tried to sell her books to the institution, suggesting that the city was waiting for a reason to lay her off.

In 2012 Deliss was criticized for failing to execute the desperately needed €80 million ($91 million) museum expansion plan after a local community group successfully campaigned for the postponement of construction. The plans were eventually scrapped when Deliss couldn’t raise the required funds.

In June 2015, Frankfurt’s municipal auditor found evidence of “problematic financial management,” during a review of the institution’s books, and there were reports of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the former director and staff members.

But, it seems like the real reasons behind the dismissal may never be properly explained.

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