The executive director of Clay Studio, Patrick Hall, has taken a sabbatical from his position at the nonprofit ceramic arts studio in Goleta after a letter signed by more than 15 employees was sent out expressing their discontent with Hall and threatening to strike if he did not step down.
The letter, signed by 12 employees and supported by seven, was sent out Thursday, July 21, and outlined dissatisfaction with office conduct, health and safety standards, and the culture of the organization. The letter went on to demand that Hall be relieved of his position as executive director and that Clay Studio hire a nonprofit consultant to develop “an active board of directors with diverse stakeholders,” implement a sexual harassment policy, and ensure all employees participate in sexual harassment and anti-racism training.
The letter stated that employees would strike until their demands were met, and after the letter was sent, the 19 employees named in the letter did not report to work.
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Members of Clay Studio’s Board of Directors responded quickly, and president-elect of the board Marsha Bailey approached retired army officer Kathy Burba to take over as executive director hours after the letter was sent. Two others were approached before Burba but declined, and Burba was chosen due to her relationship with members of the organization and ability to begin immediately. According to Burba, Hall offered to step aside and approved Burba taking over to allow time for an investigation into accusations made in the letter.
“Patrick denies the allegations but wants a very transparent investigation,” Burba said.
Once Burba took over, she said she spoke with employees, and they agreed to return to work on Friday, July 22. “The Clay Studio is a community resource and will remain open to members and participants concurrent with an operational assessment,” Burba said. “There is an incredibly hardworking staff ensuring this.”
Burba declined to comment on any accusations made in the letter, only stating that an independent consultant has been contracted to conduct an assessment, which will later be brought to a mediator.