Ex-Silicon Valley Community Foundation employees appeal to George Lucas over Emmett Carson hiring

Twenty-three former Silicon Valley Community Foundation employees and allies on Monday sent a letter to famed filmmaker George Lucas and the board of his prestigious Los Angeles museum expressing “dismay” over the museum’s hiring of the foundation’s ousted CEO Emmett Carson.

“We, the undersigned former employees of Silicon Valley Community Foundation as well as local community members and other allies, want to express our dismay and disappointment that the museum has hired Emmett Carson as its Chief Operating Officer,” the letter read. “In April 2018, it came to light… that Carson allowed sexual harassment and other bullying behavior to take place at SVCF for more than a decade. His own bullying and intimidation tactics were widely reported and documented as well.”

The letter said that Carson and his executive Mari Ellen Loijens, who was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct, resigned in disgrace following media coverage and community outcry. But Carson has “yet to acknowledge that his behavior for more than a decade at SVCF was unacceptable and he has yet to apologize for his actions,” the letter continued.

Carson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Following the scandal, Carson resigned under pressure and the controversial CEO took a year off to travel the world, often posting selfies on Twitter from scenic destinations. Then he quietly landed a top job at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, a city at the heart of the #MeToo movement. The museum’s board of directors includes heavyweight hollywood directors such as Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Torro.

Museum officials quickly defended the decision to hire Carson, despite the board’s awareness of his troubling history.

“The museum is fully aware of the allegations during Emmett’s time at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation,” a spokesman said in a statement to San José Spotlight earlier this month. “We have full confidence in Emmett and his abilities and believe he is an invaluable addition to the museum team and that he will help guide us on a successful path as we build a world-class institution.”

Museum officials did not respond to a subsequent request for comment about the letter.

But the signers, who include former employees, prominent philanthropists and supporters, said what happened during Carson’s 11 years of overseeing the Silicon Valley Community Foundation goes beyond “merely allegations.”

“We would urge the museum’s Board to review all the news articles and legal documentation provided to the public just before and after Carson’s departure,” the letter said. “The nonprofit sector, the museum’s future patrons, and the citizens of Los Angeles deserve better than Emmett Carson serving in this role.”

In a series of media reports last year, the foundation’s current and former employees accused Carson of condoning sexually inappropriate and bullying behavior from his executive, Loijens, and fostering a toxic workplace environment himself.

One of the letter’s most notable signers is Steve Kirsch, a prominent tech entrepreneur and philanthropist who started seven companies and a foundation.

Kirsch said in an interview Tuesday that “it’s just baffling to me that Emmett hasn’t acknowledged what has happened.”

“For someone to be put in another position like this without acknowledging he made a mistake, it’s just a little mind-boggling,” Kirsch said.

Working in close Silicon Valley tech and philanthropic circles, Kirsch said he often heard consistent stories from the foundation’s employees about the struggles of working there.

“People make hiring mistakes all the time,” he added. “That doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I would not want to make any judgments on the Lucas Museum. I would hope that the letter would make a difference, but if not, I think we certainly did our part in making them aware of the situation.”

Contact Ramona Giwargis at ramona@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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