Thursday, May 2, 2013
McKinney’s Chestnut Square director placed on administrative leave for insubordination
We would love to know what constitutes as "insubordination" on a historic homes board.
MCKINNEY Cindy Johnson, executive director of Chestnut Square Historic Village in McKinney, last week was placed on 10 days administrative leave for alleged insubordination.
Johnson, who's been director for six years this month, said the decision came last Tuesday following a Heritage Guild of Collin County strategic planning meeting. The Guild was formed in 1974 to preserve Chestnut Square, a collection of historic homes near downtown McKinney that show how people lived in the area from the mid-1800s through early 1900s.
"At the present time, Chestnut Square's board of directors is not prepared to comment on the actions taken related to Mrs. Johnson," Board Vice-Chair Hamilton Doak said in an email Tuesday.
Johnson said that during the meeting, she questioned several proposed strategies put forward by Doak.
"The reason stated [for administrative leave] was 'insubordination and lack of respect for the office of the Vice-Chair of the Board,'" Johnson told the McKinney Courier-Gazette in an email.
Johnson said she received an email Monday informing her of a special board meeting scheduled for May 8. She said the meeting's subject is "personnel issue" but has no attached agenda.
Johnson, a non-voting board member, said that the decision was likely a few months coming, because of her continual disagreement with board members regarding the direction the nonprofit should go development- and expansion-wise. She said a "sub-group" of board members has formed in recent months and taken actions not supported by the entire board.
Johnson, who runs the McKinney Farmers Market at Chestnut Square every Saturday during spring and summer months, sent an email to market vendors last week notifying them of her impending absence.
"People don't know what's going on and there's nothing I can do about it," she said. "I wish this had never happened, but it did. You have to decide if something is worth fighting for."
In her email to the Courier-Gazette, Johnson emphasized the success Chestnut Square and the farmers market have had the last five years. She said they have showed their value to McKinney and Collin County by hosting more than 90 weddings a year and bringing in roughly 50,000 visitors. She mentioned the farmers market's ranking as second-best in Texas and third-best in the U.S. in a recent national contest.
She added that Chestnut Square revenues have steadily grown the past three years and that the organization is operating profitably.
"Anyone can look at the numbers, the property and the people who come there now and see nothing is wrong with the organization," she said. "We're moving in the right direction. We're an asset to the city and it needs to continue."
Johnson said some board members want the Guild to take over the North Texas History Center and Myers Park and Event Center, both in McKinney. She said she told the board the Guild didn't currently line up with such ideas.
A divided board isn't new to Guild leadership, she said, adding that a similar conflict occurred soon after she was hired "to turn the place around." Half of the board at that time didn't agree with recommendations Johnson brought forth after her first year as director, she said.
Though Johnson doesn't know what will happen at the May 8 meeting, she said she'll have letters of support from the city and county to show board members and will be ready to answer any grievances they may have.
"That's all I can do," she said. "If they don't want me, they don't want me."
Because it is personnel-related, the meeting will be closed to the public, Doak said.
Johnson said that whatever happens, Chestnut Square operations will continue as usual.
"I just want people to know it's going to be OK," she said. "Everything is going to be just fine."
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