Kennedy Center Director Fired After 26 Years

The Kennedy Center Board of Directors voted to terminate the long-time director of Charlestown's anti-poverty agency, citing a communications 'break down.'

Editor's Note: This story was updated at noon.

Katherine McDonough, longtime executive director of the was terminated from her post on Thursday afternoon, after working at the anti-poverty agency for 26 years.

McDonough told Patch she intends to bring legal action against the Board of Directors at the Kennedy Center for an improper dismissal. 

Tom Cunha, vice president of the center's Board of Directors said the board asked McDonough to resign this week, citing a communications "break down."

McDonough told the board (and Patch) she would not resign without a severance package.

Without a resignation from McDonough, Cunha said, the board opted to fire her. The board was unable to offer McDonough a severance package, Cunha said, without first analyzing the agency's finances. 

Earlier this morning, Patch received a press release from the Kennedy Center board, announcing that McDonough, had "stepped down to begin new chapter in her life." 

After seeing the news, McDonough contacted Patch to explain the statement from the board was incorrect.

She said three board members, Ton Cunha, Eileen Ward (president of the board) and John Tobin, told her the board had voted unanimously on Wednesday to seek her resignation. 

McDonough is present for the board's meetings and asked the board members when the vote took place. She was told a special meeting was called to make the decision.

"I had planned to stay at the center four more years. I would have liked to retire just shy of my 70th birthday," McDonough told Patch. "I'm going to miss this job. The people who work at the Kennedy Center are kind-hearted people, trying to do the right thing."

On Friday morning, the Kennedy Center Board issued this statement:

"The board is very grateful to Kate McDonough for her many years of service and dedication to the center and we wish her our very best. We are fortunate to have dedicated, loyal staff and a solid infrastructure that allow us time to begin the process and procedure of hiring a new executive director."  

Cunha said a search committee will be formed soon and a job description should be drafted by early next week. He also said the upcoming election for board members -- which was -- will likely be canceled. 

"It wouldn't be fair to pull new board members into this," he said.

The Kennedy Center has assisted Charlestown for more than 40 years and today, it provides many resources such as Head Start, fuel assistance, programs for the elderly, and many more. 

john Collins October 08, 2011 at 04:43 PM
26 yrs this lady served and secret board meetings,and analyze the agency's finances,now no elections sounds awful fishy,
Mary Fusoni October 11, 2011 at 10:54 PM
So many things seem really wrong here. The board held a secret meeting (is that legal?). They kicked out a person who’s served in the position for many years without even severance--that’s just cruel! They said publicly that Ms. McDonough had resigned when they knew that wasn’t true. And now they’re going to cancel the election for new board members. This is a nonprofit organization, not a dictatorship. What is going on?
Jen Truong October 14, 2011 at 10:30 AM
As far as I am aware, in nonprofit organizations, the executive director reports to the board of directors, so just like in any organization the decision to fire someone is often a joint decision of the "managers" where there needs to be documentation of the problems and an effort to address the issues. We don't know what has happened behind closed doors so it is best not to speculate. It's not that the meeting was "secret", but the board does manage the ED or CEO and is accountable to the funders/taxpayers so they should be able to call a meeting prior to regularly scheduled board meetings and as long as there is quorum and documentation, then the actions are what you may call, "legal". Again, I have no first hand knowledge of what went on here. As mentioned in the article, legal action by the Executive Director is being taken so presumably if it progresses, there will be evidence presented that there was either insufficient information documented to support the dismissal etc etc. The Attorney General can ultimately decide if there are problems within the nonprofit. I think it is reasonable to cancel the election for the new board members when an Executive Director search is ongoing. You can't turn over an entire board when such an important position that essentially steers the ship is open. Then no one knows anything about the financials, mission or structure and they would sink... especially in this economy when funding is weak to begin with.


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