The abrupt firing of Angels Camp Museum Director Craig Hadley last week has left the city searching for its third museum executive in the past three years.
City Administrator Michael McHatten wrote Sept. 10 to City Council members, appointed museum commissioners and board members of the nonprofit Museum Foundation informing them of his decision “to end the business relationship” with Hadley, an independent contractor who came on as the museum director in February 2011.
McHatten has since declined to elaborate on the reason for Hadley’s dismissal, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.
“Craig has done much to improve this valuable community resource and his services will surely be missed,” McHatten wrote.
Hadley came to Angels Camp with a lengthy resume of museum work and history education and research. He served as a consultant for programming on “The History Channel,” NATO officer training and Hollywood feature films including the Civil War epic, “Glory.”
He also designed exhibits for an award-winning interactive children’s museum, the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn., and won awards for educational programs he introduced at the National Trust for Historic Preservation based in Washington, D.C.
During his 19-month tenure in Angels Camp, Hadley led efforts to improve and add exhibits to the museum, revamp operations and presentation of the sizable collection and spoke often of lofty goals for the city-owned museum. Hadley said that with enough time, money and commitment, the museum could become the premiere attraction in California for Gold Rush history buffs.
Hadley replaced Bob Rogers after a period of vacancy that followed Rogers’ firing, which occurred in July 2010, amidst a turbulent budgetary period for the city. Several other department heads were cut or their positions left vacant following their resignations during about a one-year time frame.
Hadley did not return a call seeking comment following his dismissal.
Museum Foundation President Kathy Dodge said the news of Hadley’s firing came as a surprise.
“To us, it was sudden,” Dodge said. “We supported what Craig was doing. The Museum Commission, the foundation, the city, we were all, I think, getting along well and moving forward ... Nobody had any inkling that this was going to happen, at least in our organization.”
However, Dodge said there is little time to waste looking back, as it is unlikely full detail of why Hadley was dismissed will ever be revealed. It is most important that the city hire a new director as quickly as possible and that the person selected is a strong professional, she said.
“And hopefully they will stay around for a long time,” she added.
McHatten agreed on that count, emphasizing in a phone interview Tuesday morning that the position will be advertised and filled as soon as possible. He said the council’s decision to make the director a full-time benefited employee as part of this year’s budget will make the position an attractive one.
The new position and compensation of $64,000 to $78,000 annually were formalized in a 5-0 vote at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Hadley’s pay had been about $36,000 on a part-time basis.
“There should be a number of people available of the quality and credentials (needed) to fill the role,” McHatten said, adding the compensation range had been formulated by surveying comparable positions in other cities.
McHatten acknowledged that turnover is not ideal but added that the volunteers who have guided the museum in a positive direction in recent years remain in place.
“Any time there’s change, there could be some stumbling along the way,” he said. “Craig, as the director, was working to fulfill the vision and the direction of the council, the Museum Commission and the Museum Foundation ... the director, whoever that is, just orchestrates their vision.”
McHatten serves as the interim museum director until a full-time replacement can be found. He gave a brief description of what the city will seek from a successful applicant.
“The director needs to be a fabric of the community, a part of this community ... to live, work and play here,” he said.
Hadley resided in Lake Tahoe, where his wife Jesse serves as executive director of the Lake Tahoe Maritime Museum, and commuted to Angels Camp while working there on a part-time basis.