With funding cut and director fired, MAC sits at crossroads

SPOKANE, Wash. - The MAC has been in Browne's Addition for years but now, with state funding cuts and controversy over the firing of its executive director, the museum sits at a crossroads where, instead of sharing Spokane history, it could become a part of Spokane history.

The state slashed museum funding, its executive director -- Forrest Rodgers -- was fired after just 8 months on the job and now the museum's board is receiving intense criticism for the way the firing was handled.

It all leads up to a big mess for a place that doesn't want to become history itself. At the middle of it all sits Forrest Rodgers, who says he just wants his job back.

Rodgers was lured away from his very successful museum in Bend, Oregon to boost attendance at the MAC in light of state funding cuts and dwindling community support.

Forrest Rodgers MAC decision

"So the funding is really one of the most essential and critical challenges the MAC faces and I knew that coming in and I felt like we had a good plan moving forward, the other challenge that I didn't anticipate was the MAC's attendance and membership is unacceptably low," Rodgers said.

Now Rodgers, who moved to Spokane with his wife and 3 children just 9 months ago, finds himself without a job and very little explanation as to why he was fired.

"The disappointing aspect of my alleged termination is the board never had a substantive conversation about how we're going to move forward in an environment when we know state funding is going to decline or disappear. I believed and had recommended to our executive committee that we begin a process that we reduce our dependency on state funding and we begin a process of becoming a contractor of the state," he said.

The controversy of Rodgers' firing began in April when his lawyer said the executive committee of the MAC board violated its rules by terminating Rodgers without conducting a vote of the full board.

The full MAC board later upheld the firing on May 2 in a 12-7 vote. The board has never said publicly why it fired Rodgers, which has set off a firestorm of criticism.

Nima Motahari is a huge supporter of the MAC and an outspoken critic of the board. He is spearheading a campaign to oust the board and get Rodgers his job back. Motihera says the full board really isn't to blame for Rodgers firing.

"It is a personality issue, I think it is a character issue, I think it's a direction issue, it's a variety of things, the problem is those issues are existing between a very few people on the executive board and Forrest," Motahari said.

While Motahari wouldn't elaborate on who those few board members are Rodgers said this isn't about personality conflicts; it's about getting the MAC on track, and to do that the museum needs to focus more on the history of our region.

"When you came to Spokane you had to learn about this community, why is it the way it is, how did people come here, what drove the economy of the region, what cultures are here, what ethnic groups are here, the MAC is the place that should be telling that story day in and day out, and I think that's something from a marketing prospective we didn't talk about," Rodgers said.

Emails and phone calls to the MAC's executive board for comment on this story were not returned.

Meanwhile Rodgers' attorney sent a letter to the board in May, arguing that he remains the executive director because the termination was conducted illegally. His attorney also said Rodgers would file a tort claim for more than $750,000 if the termination is upheld.

As for what Rodgers really wants, he said all he wants is his job back so he can start doing what he was hired for.

There is a board of trustees committee meeting Wednesday at noon at the MAC. Public comment will be welcome at that meeting.