Dede Wilsey Out as President of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Amid Investigation

This follows an investigation into alleged financial misconduct.

Dede Wilsey, president of the board of trustees for the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. Courtesy of Kimberly White-Pool/Getty Images.
Dede Wilsey, president of the board of trustees for the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. Courtesy of Kimberly White-Pool/Getty Images.

Diane “Dede” Wilsey is “giving up” her longtime post as president of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco following an ongoing investigation into alleged financial misconduct, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

In statement, Fine Arts Museums spokesperson Ken Garcia told the Chronicle that “after several years of serving as president and CEO, and with a competent director of museums in place, [Wilsey] believes it will serve the museums better for her to now focus on other areas where her skills and expertise will have a positive impact.”

The socialite arts patron came under fire in October, when the de Young museum‘s chief financial officer, Michele Gutierrez, accused her of not getting proper board approval for a $450,000 disability severance package made to a former city worker at the museum. (The Fine Art Museums includes the de Young and the Legion of Honor.)

Jeana Toney, Dede Wilsey at VIP Dinner for Jean Paul Gaultier at the de Young Museum in 2012. Courtesy of Drew Altizer/patrickmcmullan.com.

Dede Wilsey with guest at VIP dinner for Jean Paul Gaultier at the de Young Museum in 2012. Courtesy of Drew Altizer/patrickmcmullan.com.

Following her allegations, Gutierrez was placed on leave. She later negotiated a severance package with the institution, and has received a $2 million settlement in exchange for not filing a wrongful termination suit.

Wilsey denied any wrongdoing, but Bill Huggins, the recipient of the severance package, was married to Therese Chen, the director of registration for the de Young. Chen, who died of a stroke in March, was known to do personal favors for Wilsey. In April, as Attorney General Kamala Harris continued the state’s investigation into the matter, the museum announced that it would repay the money through the assistance of anonymous donors.

Though the Chronicle reports that the payout to Gutierrez is likely covered by insurance, they also quote one anonymous museum staffer as admitting that “we have serious cash-flow issues…”

A prominent Bay Area philanthropist, Wilsey was previously eviscerated in the memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, written by her stepson. In a review, Wilsey was described by Publishers Weekly‘s A.J. Jacobs as “perhaps the most evil parental figure since Joan Crawford.”

At the suggestion of the attorney general’s office, the museums plan remove a provision that allowed the board president to continue his or her term for life.


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