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Bishop Museum board terminates 3 top executives

Three top executives of Bishop Museum were terminated by the Board of Directors following the finish of an “independent investigation into the Museum’s work environment,” according to a news release.

The departure of Chief Executive Officer Melanie Ide; General Counsel Barron Oda; and Vice President of Operations, Planning and Program Management Wesley “Kaiwi” Yoon are effective immediately and approved by a unanimous vote of the full Board of Directors, according to the release.

The separation comes more than six months after the board hired Barbara A. Petrus, a 39-year veteran of labor and employment law, to look into allegations made against the trio. The three executives have been on paid administrative leave since July 1.

Petrus interviewed 43 current and former members of the Bishop Museum staff and “more than half of those interviewed were individuals whom Ide, Oda and/or Yoon requested the investigator speak with,” according to the release.

Honoring those requests and scheduling issues, “significantly extended the length of the investigation.”

The board declined a Honolulu Star-Advertiser request for a copy of Petrus’ findings that the board considered before parting ways with the executives. Petrus’ report will “not be made public to honor the confidentiality of the employees who provided information to the investigator, as well as the right to privacy of the affected executives,” according to the release.

“Our kuleana as a board is to ensure a healthy and safe work environment for the staff whose work provides the foundation for the success and longevity of Bishop Museum,” said Board Chairman Wayne Pitluck, on behalf of the full board, in a statement. “After thorough review and discussion, the full board feels separation of the three executives from Bishop Museum is required to provide the proper work environment for our engaged and dedicated staff.”

“The board will now act quickly to appoint an interim CEO with experience in organizational leadership. The interim CEO’s immediate task will be to identify and implement HR policies that reflect best practices for large organizations. The board will also begin a search for a new CEO with demonstrated experience at the highest levels of organizational leadership,” Pitluck explained.

In December, an art dealer and an anthropologist filed a complaint with the state Department of the Attorney General accusing Bishop Museum’s board of directors of breaching their fiduciary duties and squandering the museum’s charitable assets.

Caroline Yacoe, owner of Pacific Pathways and a specialist in Melanesian art, joined Roger Rose, an anthropologist, to file the complaint with the department’s Tax and Charities Division on Dec. 21.

The AG’s office is reviewing the complaint to determine whether an investigation is warranted.

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