By Gina Martinez
A new report has determined that former Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich and deputy director David Strauss used poor judgement and knowingly misled the board when they cancelled a historic recreation of the 1947 vote that established the state of Israel last August.
Raicovich resigned as the museum’s director on Jan. 26 after having served in that capacity for three years. In that time, she generated some controversy by being politically outspoken.
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Flushing) and Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz (D-Flushing) called for her resignation after the museum announced it was canceling a re-enactment of the vote to partition Palestine to form Israel on the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel.
The legislators called on the NYC Human Rights Commission to investigate Raicovich’s decision as a violation of Title 8 of the city’s Administrative Code, also known as the City Human Rights Law.
Lancman claimed that the decision by the museum, a public accommodation, had represented a discriminatory refusal to provide full and equal enjoyment of its services based on religion and national origin, both protected classes under the law, as well as an unlawful boycott.
A few hours later, Queens Museum said the event was back on and in November the museum hosted the event, which UN ambassadors, Jewish leaders and Vice President Mike Pence attended.
Law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman issued a report of its findings after a three-month investigation following the cancellation.
The report said Raicovich “showed immediate hostility to hosting the event at the museum” and felt that Vice President Mike Pence’s involvement was “problematic for the museum.”
The report also noted that Raicovich never disclosed her involvement as an editor of the 2017 book ”Assuming Boycott,” even though the book prominently identifies her as director of the museum and includes a foreword she co-wrote that states the goals discussed in the book are “complemented by programs, exhibitions and educational initiatives” at the museum. The book supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS, a controversial movement that calls for a boycott of Israel.
The report went on to say that Raicovich and Strauss “misled” the board and “otherwise failed to comport themselves with the standards consistent with their positions.”
The director and deputy director were both offered the opportunity to resign. Raicovich resigned and Strauss was terminated by the board, according to the report.
The report concluded that because the museum had inadequate written policies and procedures, the board was reliant on the information it received from Raicovich and Strauss in making its decision regarding the event.
“Based on the findings of this investigation, we have recommended that the Board review and improve its policies and procedures in an effort to avoid similar distractions in the future, so that the museum can focus on its mission and the community,” the report said.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart