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Cultural Council Foregoes Interim Director Rather Than Appoint Controversial Pick

With their search for an executive director ongoing, the board of directors for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (CCGJ) has decided to forego an interim director rather than appoint City Council candidate Michael Boylan.

Boylan, the former president and CEO of WJCT, was seen as a controversial pick by many, not only because he is running for the City Council District 6 seat but also because of a racially insensitive comment he allegedly made in the past, as reported in Folio Weekly on Tuesday morning - just hours before the CCGJ’s board meeting.

It was about two months ago when former executive director Tony Allegretti told the board his last day would be Friday, September 28. Shortly thereafter the transition team, which was convened after Allegretti initially announced he would be leaving the CCGJ, decided to bring in an interim executive director until the permanent position could be filled.

“So we did talk with Michael Boylan and asked if he was interested and he said he would be happy to help us out for a three month period of time,” said CCGJ Chair Ann Carey. “We brought that to the transition team and brought it to the board of directors for discussion.”

The transition team began discussing the possibility of Boylan’s appointment on Monday, September 17, where, according to Carey, a “very, very animated discussion” took place. There was widespread consensus on the transition team that Boylan was a qualified candidate. But there was some disagreement when it came to Boylan’s suitability and whether his appointment would be ethical due to his candidacy for City Council.

While some voiced concerns that Boylan’s appointment could be perceived as an endorsement for his City Council campaign, he technically wouldn’t be considered a candidate until the qualification period in early January. So, assuming Boylan would be out of the interim position by that time and as long as there was no quid pro quo while he was with the CCGJ, the board agreed there would be no state ethics violations related to his potential appointment. According to Carey, Boylan said if he were appointed he would want out by January and he had no interest in the permanent position.

The board’s judgement of Boylan’s suitability appeared to hinge on potentially racially insensitive comments he allegedly made during his time at WJCT. Those comments were referred to in the vaguest of terms during the September 20 and October 2 board meetings, but members were made aware of Folio’s article before a final vote was taken on Tuesday.

“It was a casual comment, meant to be humorous, and it wasn’t taken that way,” Boylan said in an interview with WJCT News last month. “The parties involved, we addressed the issue more formally after the fact. It was a fairly innocent comment to some friends who happened to be persons of color. I think anyone who knows me and knows my history in working in the areas of race relations knows it was a poor choice of words among friends.”

“All they need to do is look at my record in terms of my focus on race relations,” Boylan went on to say. “Ever since I came to Jacksonville it’s been a personal commitment to get involved and working with the Human Rights Commission. So my actions speak far louder than my words as it relates to that particular issue.”

After about 45 minutes of discussion on Tuesday, which included public comments, the board reached a consensus that the CCGJ could operate adequately without an executive director until January, so there was no need to appoint Boylan as an interim director.

Carey said that decision could save the council about $12,500, which is what they had been planning to pay an interim director over the next three months.

According to Carey, Allegretti has been on his way out the door for the past several weeks and during that time CCGJ staff has been performing well under her leadership. “We do have a couple of senior level staff members who have really stepped up over the last several last weeks,” she said. “Cedric Lewis, who is our Finance and HR Director, and Amy Palmer, who is our Director of Grants, both will be working with me to make sure that we keep the organization on the rails over the next several weeks.”

Carey said she feels comfortable with Tuesday’s decision because the transition team has an aggressive timeline in place for vetting candidates and hiring a new executive director.

“I think that we will know within the next week or two if we have really good candidates for our executive director position and we will know by mid-November, most likely, if we will be making an offer to an individual or not,” Carey said. “If we find that we don’t have good candidates or our offers are not accepted, it will be sooner than January when we reconvene the board to discuss what’s next. And the what next will be, probably, two-fold: one, going to an outside firm to help us in the executive director search; and then number two, looking at bringing in an interim to last us until we get that person in place.”

If they decide to bring in an interim executive director in the future, the board will most likely reconvene the transition team and ask board members for the names of candidates who they think are qualified. They’ll also have to determine how long they would need the interim director for, and whether the position should be full or part-time.

In the meantime, Carey says she and CCGJ staff will do their best to fill the void left by Allegretti’s departure and the transition team will continue with their efforts to find a new executive director by January.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.