January 25, 2009

Lucy-Desi Center Search for New Executive Director

As reported at The Post-Journal by Kristen Johnson:

The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center has begun searching for a new executive director.

Charles Edward Fagan, a local attorney and the center's former acting executive director, submitted his resignation from that post on Nov. 20 and followed it on Dec. 16 with his resignation as president of the center's board of directors.

The center recently began advertising its need for an executive director. Ads began appearing in the classifieds section of The Post-Journal and have appeared in a number of other newspapers and on major online job-hunting sites.

"What happened? Nothing, really," Fagan said Thursday. "I thought it was a good step forward, one that would indicate that my days as acting executive director were indeed transitional. The board, I think, understood why I was stepping aside. The fundamental changes that I tried to see to were successfully undertaken and in place."

Mike Latone, who was appointed to the board of directors in late October, has been named president. Latone, the owner of D&S Glass, is a charter member of the center's Acquisition Society and was instrumental in the establishment of the Lucy-Desi Museum. He is also the past president of REI and has volunteered with the United Way.

Latone, who is out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Terry Lind, the president of Lind Funeral Home, was also appointed to the board in late October. He is the board's vice president.

Pat Smith, who on several occasions has stepped up to oversee the day-to-day operations of the center, is the center's interim executive director.

'WHAT I SET OUT TO DO'

Fagan said he never intended for his tenure to be permanent.

He had been serving as acting executive director since April 9, a position he reportedly took at the behest of the late Lucille Ball's family which had, at the time, been asking for the return of loaned memorabilia. Former executive director Ric Wyman continued to oversee the day-to-day operations of the center until, on Sept. 12, he and his assistant, Pat Brininger, were fired. At the time, there was considerable concern over whether Fagan had the authority to fire Wyman and Brininger.

Concerns have also been raised over whether Fagan had acted appropriately in other ways as acting executive director - a past article by The Post-Journal noted that Fagan at one time hired a different attorney than the one approved by the board of directors and that no minutes were recorded during the board of directors meeting at which Fagan named himself acting executive director.

But Fagan mentioned none of that Thursday. He said his resignations weren't the result of "anything happening" - instead, he said, he had simply "accomplished what I set out to do" during what he called "the best eight months of my life."

Fagan said he was able to see the two projects "I cared about the most get under way."

One of those projects was the signing of a new business agreement between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's children, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill and Desi Arnaz Jr., and the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center. The three-year business licensing agreement, which was signed in September, allows the center to continue using images and likenesses of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Fagan also considered a new mission and outreach by the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center "very important." The center is the driving force behind a national initiative to combine humor and health care. The initiative will bring humor to hospitals and clinics around the country, Fagan said. In November, experts from Tampa, Fla., St. Louis, Mo., and Rochester came to Jamestown to collaborate with center officials on how the initiative could best be undertaken. A local advisory committee has also been formed.

"I felt that these things were absolutely and fundamentally important to the continuing mission of the center," Fagan said. "Those things having been successfully begun, I felt it was time to step down. I always said my tenure would be temporary. I wasn't hired - the nature of my service was completely voluntary. The center went through a year of very difficult transition and I tried my best to make sure it was on better footing."

While Fagan does not know whether he will continue to work with the Board of Directors or the center itself in any official capacity, he did say his "services are always available."

"I certainly hope, if they ever call me, that I will be able to help them," he said. "I have a real love for the center and an abiding love for the arts in Chautauqua County. I'd try anything to help keep the arts a part of our community. I think the center is a very valuable asset to the community."

Fagan praised Latone and Smith and said he feels they are "absolutely great" choices for board president and interim executive director, respectively.

"I think Mike is a very dedicated individual who wants to do what's best for the Lucy-Desi Center," he said. "And Pat is wonderful. She's got an open-door policy, she's involved in every aspect of day-to-day operations, and she's just a great choice. I knew she was the right person when I first brought her in. I can't say enough about her."

THE HIRING PROCESS

Though Smith has, on numerous occasions, become the center's "go-to person" when there's a leadership void, she said she's not interested in a permanent directorship.

"No, I won't be applying for the position," she said. "I work with a number of other organizations and I'm not really looking for a permanent, full-time job. I've stepped up to keep things going so the board doesn't feel rushed during the process to find a new executive director."

Smith said she will likely play a somewhat active role in choosing the center's new executive director, though.

"We went through a planning process and looked at where the board wanted to go before we started advertising the position" she said. "We wanted to take a very logical, careful course. I will probably sit in on the interviews, but really, the hiring decision is the board's."

The center's board of directors hopes to have someone in place by April 1, Smith said, and they will be working with human resources specialist Richard A. Koerner throughout the hiring process.

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