Objective: Require the Wayne County Commission to follow an open and transparent process when appointing board members to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority.
Why we’re doing this: To allow the Art Institute Authority to draw from a broader pool of qualified applicants, and hence permit it to hold the DIA to higher standards of delivery.
Actions to date: In April 2021, we wrote to the Art Institute Authority requesting that the term expiration dates for the board members be added to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority Home Page.
Outcomes : in May of 2021, term expiration dates were added to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority (WCAIA) web page for all nine members, with the earliest five set to expire in May 2022.
In addition, we were verbally assured that a transparent process for nomination of replacements would be put in place “towards the end of 2021.”
In May of 2022, the de-facto Chair of the WCAIA reneged on his verbal agreement to put in place an open and transparent process, and the Wayne County Commissioners moved to reappoint the five current board members. This was despite (i) all of the five members had been on WCAIA since its inception in 2012, (ii) there being overwhelming arguments that the current board members had been incompetent and negligent, (iii) there being an overwhelming number of public comments requesting that the current board members not be reappointed, (iv) there being four or five highly qualified new applicants for the positions, and (v) that the process they followed was inconsistent with the one outlined to (at least one) new applicant.
Subsequently, we wrote on two occasions (May 4 and May 18, 2022) to the Wayne County Commissioners and other interested legislators to argue against the reappointment. On May 4, we received a response from Pamela Lane (Acting Clerk of the Commission). For reference, all of that correspondence is collated here.
In our May 18 e-mail, we raised the issue of “whether authority members can also serve on the board of the DIA without conflict of interest. The matter becomes critical during the upcoming negotiation of the new service agreement. The DIA is the service provider, yet board members of the DIA are involved in negotiating on behalf of the residents of Wayne County.”
The WCAIA’s Articles of Incorporation state that “No member shall be an employee, officer, or director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Inc, ” and both the Articles of Incorporation and MI Act 296 of 2010 (the governing legislation for the Art Institute Authorities) state that the Art Institute Authority “shall not ……. participate in the governance of an art institute.”
Subsequently to our May 18, 2022 e-mail, at the May 25 meeting of the Wayne County Commission’s Government Operations Committee, Commission Chair Alisha Bell introduced a resolution (that wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda) to amend the WCAIA’s Articles of Incorporation to remove the two clauses described above. You can see the video of Alisha Bell addressing the meeting here.
Removing these two clauses from the WCAIA’s Articles of Incorporation may bring the WCAIA back into compliance with their Articles of Incorporation, but it does not address the underlying conflict of interest nor does it bring the WCAIA into compliance with the Michigan State legislation.
Commission Chair Alisha Bell has a personal interest in this matter. She serves on the Wayne County Zoological Authority (WCZA)as well as being on the Board of the Detroit Zoological Society. The Articles of Incorporation of the WCZA state that “The Authority shall not participate in the governance of an accredited zoological institution.” Commission Chair Bell’s resolution is to change the Articles of Incorporation for both the WCAIA and the WCZA.
As of June 2022, we continue to advocate for (i) an open and transparent process for appointing board members to the WCAIA, (ii) the removal of the five board members who have been on the board since 2012, (iii) board members to be prohibited from serving on both the boards of the WCAIA and the DIA, and (iv) WCAIA board members who have conflicts of interest to be removed.
(Last updated June 27 2022)
Background: the three Art Institute Authorities (for Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties) collectively transfer $25-$30M of public money to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) each year. This money is raised by a millage applied to property owners in the Tri-County area and is commonly referred to as “the millage.”
The Art Institute Authorities negotiate and administer the Service Agreements which define the services that the DIA provides to the communities of the Tri-County region. As such, they have a unique capability to directly influence the operation of the DIA and the value that it provides to the communities of the Tri-County region.
The appointment of the board of the Wayne County Art Institute Authority is governed by the Authority’s bylaws which state:
“Board of Directors. The board of directors (“Board”) shall consist of nine (9) members. The Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) for the Charter County of Wayne shall appoint three (3) members, who shall serve two (2) year terms. The Wayne County Commission shall appoint six (6) members, who shall serve two (2) year terms.
Replacement and Vacancies. Subsequent Members shall be appointed in the same manner as original appointments at the expiration of each Member’s term of office. A Member whose term of office has expired shall continue to hold office until his//her successor has been appointed. A member may be reappointed to serve additional term (sic).”
As of December 2020, the process for appointing board members was completely opaque to the general public. More specifically, there is no way for the public to know (i) how and when each member was appointed, (ii) when their current two-year term expires, (iii) how potential new members can be nominated, and (iv) the criteria that are used to decide whether a member is appointed or not.
The Wayne County Art Institute Authority nominates two people to sit on the DIA’s board of Directors. Hubert Massey was appointed to one of those positions since 2012, and Renata Seals-Evans has filled the second since 2017. Both of these cases indicate that the board members were re-appointed beyond their original two-year terms.
We are advocating that (i) the two-year term limit is respected, and (ii) that upcoming vacancies should be filled by a transparent process originating from an open call on the Wayne County Art Institute Home Page. This will permit the Art Institute Authority to draw from a broader pool of qualified applicants, and hence allow it to hold the DIA to higher standards of delivery to the citizens of Wayne County.