Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki and her husband often tell a scary story about how they escaped with their lives amid suffocating smoke and burning coals when flames destroyed their home and all their property during the 2017 Tubbs fire.
Sakaki reiterated this experience last week in a video submitted to the Academic Senate before he decided to move forward with a vote of no confidence in her leadership on campus scandal with sexual harassment and revenge featuring the president and her husband, lobbyist Patrick McCallum.
Sakaki did not say in the video – and did not discuss widely – that nearly $ 85,000 in works of art donated to the university for public viewing and educational purposes were among the items destroyed when a wildfire burned down her home.
Destroying works of art and pushing McCallum to hang additional works from the university collection in their homes have been a key topic in reports of sexual harassment against the president’s husband, which recently sparked a scandal that threatened the president’s leadership, records and interviews show.
The allegations against Sakaki and her husband have shaken a California campus and sparked re-criticism over how the country’s largest four-year public university system investigates and resolves sexual harassment and retaliation complaints. leadership ranks and headed his own the Chancellor resigns in February. This week, Sonoma faculty begins a vote of no confidence in Sakaki’s leadership. Citing an investigation by the Los Angeles Times, 44 state lawmakers have called for a system-wide audit of how allegations of sexual harassment involving employees are being investigated, as well as payments to top executives.
After Tabs fire, Sonoma has been embroiled in tensions over the display of more artwork at Sakaki and McCallum’s private residences, which was not part of the university’s “usual location” of the art collection, according to legal records of settlements reviewed by The Times. An employee who visited the couple’s home many times to assess how and where to hang the painting said McCallum made her feel uncomfortable, describing him as “dirty old man”, “pervert” and “horrible”, according to records.
McCallum was disappointed that the process was not moving fast enough, and wondered whether Sakaki’s cabinet or management team should vote for the installation of the artwork, according to statements in the records. The top head of the university said she overheard him tell two female staff members, “I sleep with the head of the cabinet, so I’m mostly in the office and getting votes, and I’m voting for the arts,” the records said.
The acrylic, mixed media and watercolor paintings lost during the fire were part of the largest art gift in Sanoma history, valued at more than $ 2 million. In 2015, the family-owned Benziger winery, a Sonoma Valley facility, donated a collection of about 450 pieces to keep the images together and displayed in prominent public spaces on campus, according to donation documents released by the university in response to California public records. Reporters query Times.
Joe Benziger, who helped organize the donation, told The Times he heard from faculty members that some artwork had been destroyed, but the family never received an official report from Sakaki or other Sonoma state administrators.
“It was meant to stay at the university,” he said of the artwork. “We didn’t even save it for our home.”
Eighteen works of art were destroyed at Sakaki’s home, including a $ 15,900 calligraphic by Wang Dunling; the mixed media work of the late artist Nancy Graves at $ 12,900; and a painting on Masonic by artist Joseph Marushko worth $ 5,400, records show.
According to records, Sonoma state officials tried to compensate for the losses by providing insurance shortly after the forest fire. The flames from the flames did not reach the campus.
In a written response, a university spokeswoman said Sakaki had borrowed the art for display at her home because she often conducts activities that benefit the campus. Spokeswoman Julia Gonzalez said the university had received an insurance payment for “the cost of the artwork” and that no Sonoma State art had been installed after the fire in the couple’s homes.
Allegations of allegations of sexual harassment and tensions over the hanging of works of art in Sakaki’s home have been documented in records related to a lawsuit filed by Lisa Wolendorf, former vice-chancellor of Sonoma.
A Investigation Times Last month, it was described in detail as the University of California paid $ 600,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that Woldorf faced revenge on Sakaki, her boss, after she told senior California officials that several women had accused McCullough unwanted touches and sexual comments.
Sakaki and McCallum said they had done nothing wrong, and Sakaki described the accusations in response as “completely baseless.” Sakaki later announced that she divorced her husband after he sent emails criticizing Woldorf and reports of the scandal, reports that Sakaki called “inaccurate and unauthorized.”
The Benziger family acquired their ranch in 1980 in Glen Ellen, a bucolic community in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The family business of several generations has become a leader in biodynamic, sustainable and organic wine production.
In the early 1980s, Joe Benziger met Bob Nugent, a well-known local artist and art professor in Sonoma, when they broke up a fight in a polo match. Befriended, came up with the idea of commissioning modern art for Benziger wine bottles.
For more than three decades, hundreds of artists have created original works, the only requirement being that the works include the Parthenon. The restoration of the Greek temple was on the property when it was purchased by the family.
“We thought it would be really cool to link all the art together with the property,” Benziger told The Times.
The collection, which featured prominent artists such as Sol Levitt, Robert Arneson and Squick Carnwatt, became too large for the family to show.
Benziger said the family wanted to keep the collection together and believed that Sonoma State, visited by his daughters, would be an ideal place because it has many public places and a wine management program is evolving. With the help of Nugent, who oversaw the collection, they donated art to the university in late 2015, about six months before Sakaki’s arrival.
“We wanted the public to enjoy it,” Benziger said. “We also wanted it to be used as a learning tool for prospective students.”
In an interview, Newgent said the benefit to the students was “one of the main reasons” for the donation.
In a letter of thanks, the former vice president of Sonoma, who led the fundraiser, assured the family that the university “will be proud and very grateful to showcase an art collection of this caliber and diversity at our new Wine Spectator Learning Center, University Art Gallery and Information Schultz Center.
In a document accepting donations, the university recognized a key restriction on the gift: “the collection must be kept together.”
In March 2016, Sonoma State announced the gift in a press release. The university noted that the works will be exhibited in campus galleries and other public spaces.
“It would be great,” a university spokesman said in a release, “for students to have a large collection to study and use to organize exhibitions.”
Last week, as Sakaki struggled to regain confidence in her leadership before the Academic Senate, she drew attention to Tubbs’ fire as a reminder that Sonoma State is her home.
“I was forced to leave everything I had when I fled this house in the midst of severe fires, explosions and smoke,” she said of the wildfire, which killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.
After the destruction, McCallum insisted on the installation of works of art in the couple’s new residence, according to records of the settlement.
Folendorf claimed in the records that McCallum was commenting on sexual harassment during discussions about the university’s art collection and that some staff members were uncomfortable posting art in the couple’s private homes after the fire.
“There was a lot of tension around discussions about showcasing art in their private residences, as it was not part of the usual location of the SDU art collection and because much of the donated private collection burned down in 2017 in the house,” the statement said. records.
Woldorf, who said she overheard McCallum’s comments about the dream “with the head of the cabinet”, said that the staff “considered Mr. McCallum’s statements linking sex, power and influence, insulting and disturbing.”
The allegations were one of reports of sexual harassment, which, according to Wolendorf, she passed on to the Chancellor’s office. Representatives of the California state system admitted that they had not started a formal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, and instead talked to Sakaki about the charges against her husband.