WRONGFUL DISMISSAL: Art gallery sued by former executive director for $250k

WRONGFUL DISMISSAL: Art gallery sued by former executive director for $250k

CORNWALL, Ontario – The fired head of The Art Gallery – Cornwall is suing her former employers for $250,000.

Sylvie Lizotte filed a statement of claim against the art gallery, known as TAG, earlier this year, seeking $100,000 for wrongful dismissal, $100,000 for mental distress and $50,000 in punitive and aggravated damages.

Lizotte argues she was unlawfully terminated earlier this year by TAG, according to court records obtained by Seaway News, by way of attacks upon her reputation which resulted in mental distress and were an attempt to get her to quit.

TAG has filed its intent to defend against the claim, which names TAG board members Wyatt Walsh and Jamie Gilcig specifically and seeks $250,000 from them as well.

In her claim Lizotte says she was summoned to TAG’s Pitt Street offices on Feb. 26, where she met Walsh for the first time and was provided with a letter outlining a suspension without pay for two weeks due to insubordination.

At the time she was advised, according to the statement of claim, that if she did not resign within the two weeks she would be fired.

“The manner of the…dismissal for alleged cause, without basis and just a few short weeks after Gilcig and Walsh were appointed as TAG board members, and following upon a period of forced vacation and suspension without pay, was heavy-handed and malicious,” reads Lizotte’s statement of claim.

In its defense TAG denies these allegations and suggests, among other things, Lizotte’s “reputation” with artists was “poor.”

Lizotte was terminated effective March 11. Court records indicate Lizotte was paid an annual salary of $45,000.

Lawyers for both TAG and Lizotte have not yet been reached for comment.

At the time of her dismissal Walsh said he was completing an internal investigation into the inner workings of TAG.

“This was a cut and dry situation,” Walsh said in an interview at the time. “We did our due prudence.”

Lizotte had been employed by the art gallery for 20 years, but had begun to run afoul of board members, past and present.

Differing visions and a “disconnect” between the board governing TAG and its executive director led to an exodus of individuals at the beginning of 2015.

While many former members of the TAG board whom Seaway News spoke with at the time declined to address the issue with specifics, former board member Jason Setnyk lifted the veil of secrecy slightly in comments to this newspaper.

“In my opinion there was a disconnect between the executive director and board members,” said Setnyk in January. “We had different visions for the art gallery.”

But Setnyk wouldn’t go any further with his comments, because “litigation is a legitimate concern.”

It was a running theme among many former members of the TAG board, who would not speak out concerning their time with the organization – many citing a fear they could be sued by Lizotte for speaking publicly on their relationship.

Nothing alleged against TAG has been proven in court.

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