Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres got right to work when she took over as executive director of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum.
Beres launched new programming and exhibitions, which immediately drove up attendance and membership. She landed new grants, partnerships, private donations and corporate sponsorships, which boosted the organization’s budget, according to the museum’s annual report.
Yet the museum’s board fired her in June, a year and a half after she came aboard. Neither Beres nor the museum explained why. The board said employee privacy concerns prohibited it from commenting.
But the move didn’t sit well with some of the board members, museum staffers and supporters. Many have resigned or withdrawn support, and two of the museum’s remaining four staffers quit last month.
Now, a museum founder and one of its longtime champions have filed a lawsuit against many of the museum’s board of directors. In the complaint, Chinese Historical Museum founder Sally Wong Avery and Tom Hom, a former San Diego City Council member who also helped found the museum with his late wife Dorothy Hom, paint a picture of an out-of-control board of directors that’s unwilling to let go of its power. While Beres’ ouster isn’t mentioned in the complaint, Avery and Hom were among the most vocal about her firing, and it’s clear that the incident triggered the lawsuit.
Avery and Hom are hoping to force a change of leadership at the museum, which has an annual operating budget of about $330,000 according to its most recent tax filing.