Research and Advocacy 2

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: we wrote to the Art Institute Authority requesting that the term limits for the board members be added to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority Home Page. In practice, this also required that term limits be defined for the board members since previously their terms had effectively been limitless

Outcomes: in May of 2021, term limits were set for all nine members with the earliest five set to expire in May 2022. These expiration dates were added to the Wayne County Art Institue Authority web page.

In addition, we were verbally assured that a transparent process for nomination of replacements would be put in place towards the end of 2021.

Background: the three Art Institute Authorities (for Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties) collectively transfer over $25M 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 is 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.