News

Filoli statement: More than 1,000 volunteers sign new agreement

 

More than 1,000 Filoli volunteers have signed a new volunteer agreement, Executive Director Cynthia D'Agosta announced in a prepared statement Monday afternoon.

"In recent days there have been a number of inaccurate or incomplete media reports concerning Filoli and our volunteers," she said in the statement. "These reports suggested a level of division within the organization that is exaggerated."

Controversy

There has been considerable controversy over the agreement, and Ms. D'Agosta has declined interview requests.

Filoli later decided to allow volunteers to opt out of a controversial clause releasing Filoli from liability for damages to volunteers.

Heidi Brown, president of Filoli's volunteer group, Friends of Filoli, explained the origins of the agreement in an interview with the Almanac.

Text of statement

Below is the Filoli statement, emailed to the Almanac on Monday afternoon from Larry Kamer of the Kamer Consulting Group, an Oakland-based crisis communications management company.

"(WOODSIDE, CA -- Monday, March 2, 2015) -- Cynthia D'Agosta, Executive Director of Filoli (www.filoli.org), issued the following statement today:

"In recent days there have been a number of inaccurate or incomplete media reports concerning Filoli and our volunteers. These reports suggested a level of division within the organization that is exaggerated.

"Filoli truly values the contributions of its 1300 registered volunteers. Without them, Filoli would not be the same wonderful and special place it is. Over 1,000 volunteers have decided to sign the new volunteer agreement and continue to help preserve and protect Filoli as they always have. Regrettably, a very small number of individuals took inaccurate interpretations of the new agreement to several media organizations, including local TV stations.

"In addition to protections afforded under state and federal laws, Filoli volunteers, members and visitors are all covered by a policy that has been in place for many years. Recently, Filoli's Governing Board, a group of 31 volunteers, approved changes to include a volunteer agreement designed to protect both the institution and the volunteers.

"These changes signify responsible stewardship of this precious estate owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and bring Filoli into alignment with virtually all other museums and cultural institutions of its kind.

"Filoli has experienced no significant loss of volunteers or volunteer hours, nor do we expect to.

"We are implementing an outreach campaign to our members and media organizations to clear up any confusion these initial stories may have generated, and we value all input concerning ways in which communications can be improved. We welcome any and all inquiries and invite everyone to visit Filoli, take advantage of our educational opportunities, and volunteer at Filoli. "

Comments

78 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Really!
Rather than communicate effectively with volunteers and the whole community, the Executive Director has hired a firm to make a statement. The crisis does continue.


81 people like this
Posted by ex-volunteer with over 15yrs tucked under her belt
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Well yes, of course, this is a 'prepared' statement. They HAVE to put on the face; but Cynthia D'Agosta and her 'crew' are still egregiously disingenuous.

....These reports suggested a level of division within the organization that is exaggerated...

The volunteers' level of mistrust in the current 'leadership' is not in any way 'exaggerated'; it is not 'exaggerated' that a former President of the Friends of Filoli is so disheartened and disgusted in the current Leadership -- she has seen fit to remove Filoli from her will; it is not 'exaggerated' that well over half of the 1,300 volunteers did NOT sign the VA agreement in it's original form; it is not 'exaggerated' that there is a very sour feeling among both staff and volunteers who are continuing at Filoli (but they are hoping that it will get better); it is not 'exaggerated' that the current Filoli 'Leadership' lacks the integrity, good will and understanding in how to effectively 'lead'.
National Trust -- are you seeing ALL of this unfold? Am sure you are trying to maintain that all is proceeding smoothly. And THAT is an exaggeration! Cynthia D'Agosta was not the right person for Filoli Executive Director position -- and that is not an exaggeration!!


74 people like this
Posted by volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

wow.....all they said to the volunteer base was "sign it or leave"; they never (in any meaningful way) reached out once the volunteers started asking questions and they had to hire a firm to make a response to try and mitigate the damage they have brought on themselves!

Congratulations (sarcasm included)! The leadership is trying very hard to bring Filoli into the 21st century and act like a business.

Did no one ever explain to you what FILOLI stands for? FIght a just cause, LOve your fellow man, LIve a good life.

The actions of the Filoli leadership betray all of this.


72 people like this
Posted by If the truth be told....
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:06 pm

Cynthia D'Agosta is the crises that needs to be managed.


80 people like this
Posted by 8 year volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm

If no significant problems, why does Filoli Administration need to hire a crisis communication management company? Perhaps they should have hired a professional communication/management before releasing the Volunteer Agreement!


72 people like this
Posted by Astounded
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:45 pm

The above statement released by Filoli includes the phrase "a volunteer agreement designed to protect both the institution and the volunteers". My reading of the volunteer agreement indicates it is completely one-sided and Filoli is only protecting itself. I have no idea of how the the agreement protects the volunteers. Maybe someone from the Filoli administration would like to explain how the agreement protects the volunteer.


76 people like this
Posted by former volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Cynthia D'Agosta continues to blame others for her own ineptitude. First it was the "disruptive" volunteers who caused all this mess.....the same volunteers whose questions she would never answer. Now she is blaming the media for putting forward "inaccurate or incomplete" reports.....the same media with whom she would not speak. When will she ever be accountable for the consequences of her own actions?


70 people like this
Posted by volunteer and member
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:22 pm

(agree with Astounded)

If it's all a 'big misunderstanding' -- why is a crisis management company having to put a spin on this? My brother-in-law is an attorney and he read the volunteer agreement. He advised me to NOT sign and said the agreement was 1) not legally enforceable and 2) appeared to lack 'good will' towards the volunteers. Why would an organization that has such a long history with it's volunteer population be so completely clueless in handling this?


76 people like this
Posted by long term docent
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:56 pm

I find it very interesting and telling that Ms. D'Agosta, rather than agreeing to be interviewed by anyone in the press, has hired a PR firm from Oakland to issue a statement full of half-truths and denial to state her case.

I am one of the docents who did sign, but only because I did not want to totally sever my connection to Filoli. If Ms. D'Agosta really believes Filoli has not lost a significant number of dedicated docent staff she is clearly out of touch. She has lost not only a large number of the docents, but also their devotion to Filoli.

The troubles at Filoli are far from over. Ms. D'Agosta needs to understand that or leave. Its as simple as that.


69 people like this
Posted by volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Inability to admit to mistakes, insistence on blaming others, refusal to answer questions, tilting at strawmen, and repetition of the same vacuous statements are all hallmarks of bad leadership. As if there is only one way to write a VA, and so why bother to listen to people who might actually have better ideas. I'm sorry, but the Governing Board did not do a perfect job with the VA, and there are many among the 1300 volunteers who had intelligent questions and alternative ideas that were worthy of consideration. But the Executive Director (and presumably at least a portion of the Governing Board) wouldn't listen to even the most minor suggestion. This was an entirely self-made crisis and could have easily been avoided or resolved early by competent management. If the ED couldn't manage it herself, then the Governing Board could have stepped into to advise her (or dismiss her). If the Governing Board couldn't manage it, then . . . well, maybe it should take a vote of no-confidence in itself for it's poor judgement.


67 people like this
Posted by member/volunteer
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Hmmm, wee bit of a misleading "exaggeration" here. D'Agosta says: "Filoli has experienced no significant loss of volunteers or volunteer hours, nor do we expect to." Let's see, out of 1300 active volunteers, only about 600 signed the original volunteer agreement. As the administration got bad press and they had to do damage control, they angrily allowed the release and indemnification clause to be crossed out. Taking advantage of that option, many more volunteers signed. Then D'Agosta told the volunteers that the clause would be reinstated next year and would be even harsher. So next year when she comes back with a new, and not improved, volunteer agreement that they will again have to sign, how many volunteers does she anticipate having then? The loss will be significant.


52 people like this
Posted by volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Ms D'Agosta would be well advised to heed the old saying, "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging". A number of commentators complained that she wouldn't speak, but maybe that was her best strategy.


61 people like this
Posted by Long-term Volunteer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:21 pm

It’s interesting that Cynthia D’Agosta is skilled at creating a crisis, but not in resolving it. She continues to be factually challenged and dismissive of the large number of volunteers who dare to question her way. This isn’t a talented leader.


55 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Does everyone forget that Heidi is supposed to speak for the docents???? Where is her outcry as to what is happening??? Her absence in speaking for the docents states where she stands on all of this. She soon has the position of President... and has put that above responsibility and integrity of speaking for the docents.... Shame on her!!!


52 people like this
Posted by Former Nature Ed Volunteer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 2, 2015 at 9:38 pm

The D'Agosta/Kamer statement says that over 1,000 volunteers have signed.

According to Heidi Brown, there are 1,300 active volunteers and an additional 200 volunteers who are either Emeritus or have an "on hold" status, for a grand total of 1,500 volunteers -- sounds to me as if 2/3 of the volunteer force signed. That must mean that about 500 did not sign.

Hmmmm, am I exaggerating?


60 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2015 at 9:55 pm

It should be stated, that many of the docents who originally stated they wouldn't sign the VA because of Clause #3 signed the waiver with the exclusion. This was done so they could fulfill their commitment to Filoli, that they loved, and the school children that they had committed to take on hikes. At the end of this May, when the school hikes end, these same docents will leave. Not once has Heidi or Cynthia even discussed the impact of docents leaving on the children. For us Nature Ed docents, it is all about the children and our commitment to them. I believe Filoli does not see the Nature Education hikes as a core part of their business. The extra liability that Nature Ed docents take when leading hikes was the core reason of the indemnification clause.


66 people like this
Posted by Filoli 14 year volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:03 pm

I signed the Volunteer Agreement, crossing out all the liability clauses, and asked for active emeritus standing. I was hoping I could somehow contribute to a change in management behavior and perhaps leadership that is so desperately needed, I am stunned that money that was intended for the maintenance of Filoli is being spent on a professional crisis management outfit. Perhaps the Governing Board will look at that expenditure as funds well-spent. I suspect that no volunteers, nor contributors, nor the general public, will agree.


36 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Perhaps the President of Filoli should be voted on by the docents, who work the long hours supporting it in such a loving way....


55 people like this
Posted by What were you thinking?
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:42 pm

to Heidi Brown, Toni Barrack, Bob Walker, to the Governing Board members who were in a position to speak up against this wrong -- all of you who did NOTHING to help change or make this right, you have lost the respect of all of us who thought you had courage and dignity to do the right thing. You have made a mockery of everything that was great and wonderful about the stewardship of this unique place. Mrs. Roth would ban all of you from setting foot on Filoli (starting with Cynthia D'Agosta) were she here to see this travesty. It is a blessing that she is not here to see what you have done.


54 people like this
Posted by a view from a window
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:29 pm

When you barely had half the volunteer membership sign (if that was even an accurate number provided) -- you grudgingly offered the 'opt out' of one of the clauses to dangle the carrot and get volunteers to sign and skew your numbers for this load of 'creative spin'. Then, as all the volunteers were coerced and under duress to sign (as they could not continue their volunteerism if they did not sign -- smells like duress to me) you try to say -- "more than 1000 signed....a very small number of individuals took inaccurate interpretations of the agreement.....a level of division within the organization...is exaggerated....Filoli has experienced no significant loss of volunteers or volunteer hours... This indeed is a very 'creative' presentation of the facts. I can see why Filoli leadership had to hire a crisis communications management company to demonstrate how successful Filoli has been in managing this situation. It took Jane Risser ~6 years to demonstrate her true colors as Filoli's Executive Director -- it's taken less than 2 years for Cynthia D'Agosta to demonstrate her remarkable talents.


70 people like this
Posted by Docent at Filoli
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:52 pm

It is a shame that when some people come into power, they see themselves as invincible and all knowing. Unfortunately Ms. D'Agoura & Ms. Brown have put Filoli in a position where they are losing experienced docents who have always cherished Filoli,their duties in their respective committees and the visitors they teach & enlighten. These same docents must be members of Filoli to serve as volunteers. How much revenue will Filoli lose if these volunteers leave or are DISMISSED for not signing "the agreement" & don't renew their membership. How many of these volunteer will remove Filoli from their wills. Regardless of what century you are in or what century you strive to enter, one rule still applies..."if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Too many exalted administrators try to reinvent the wheel to make themselves look good & to impress their supervisors or to add a paragraph to their resumes. Filoli HAD a dedicated group of volunteers with extremely efficient committees in place. Ms. D'Agosta & Ms. Brown, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!


70 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 3, 2015 at 7:26 am

This statement is quite a spin. Volunteers signed because they were told they had to leave Filoli if they didn't sign. The last 200 waited to the last hours to sign, the majority of whom,reluctantly signed on a wait and see if they fire and hire new management basis.
A stroll through Filoli on Sunday told a different story. Flower arrangements were tired or absent in the mansion, rooms, were
sparsley occupied by volunteers. There were no wonderful sounds of music from a volunteer playing piano in the ballroom. The piano was empty. I am a volunteer who reluctantly signed. I was glared at rather than greeted by staff. I am not hired to write this
I write this comment so that Filoli does not try to cover up but sincerely tries to make-up. The reason the volunteers are so vocal with comments is because we have been provided no forum to have a conversation although we have practically begged for such an opportunity.


64 people like this
Posted by Another docent
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:27 am

If Cynthia D'Agosta stays at the helm, Filoli is going to have to put the Kramer crises communication management company on retainer.


68 people like this
Posted by Retired CEO
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:11 am

When all questions are deemed inflammatory by management there is a leadership problem. The time has come to make some changes at the top.


52 people like this
Posted by Former Volunteer
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:14 am

Filoli volunteers really are key to the whole experience of visiting Filoli. A one hundred year old mansion, a spectacular formal garden, more than 7 miles of trails through the property are all protected by volunteers. Yes, Filoli has paid staff, but the well being of the house , the garden, and the trails depends on dedicated volunteers who give thousands of hours to leading hikes, and showing vsitiors through the mansion, the gardens, and the orchard. Volunteers plan and arrange the gorgeous floral arrangements which are so important to the gracious rooms of that home. As a volunteer, I looked forward to answering questions and showing visitors around. Sometimes, it was necessary to remind visitors not to pick flowers or gather things from the property.
Those volunteer's have been told they are not necessary or appreciated. Filoli can not survive in the hands of those presently sitting in offices. If the Executive Director, the Head of the Governing Board, and the President of the Friends of Filoli can not do their jobs, they need to resign.
Filoli is a one of a kind treasure .


47 people like this
Posted by docent for many years
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:23 am

How many "forced signings" had clauses crossed out?

And, in order to keep things running from day-to-day, out of the total 1500 vols how many have switched to emeritis standing?

I'm glad management brought the policies up to the 21st Century.

Now, how can we get a 21st Century participative management instead of the current 20th Century authoritative version that we have?


57 people like this
Posted by Watching and waiting
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Someone wrote that Ms. D'Agosta has become too uppity to communicate. I suggest that she is scared compost-less, or is troubled by a personality defect. Her behavior in her present situation is irrational - either regarded by the goal of her job (to preserve and improve the assets of her organization), or as a career-minded executive (creating and further inflaming a "labor dispute" where none existed). The Governing Board better pull up their britches and act like adults -- replace her ASAP, while the current crisis is at fever pitch. Delaying the inevitable will only let the resentments, anger, and overall damage settle in and become harder to repair in the future.

This crisis is fresh. Corrective action in the form of firing Ms. D'Agosta will lance the wound and allow the reconciliation process to begin while people who care are still involved. As each day passes, we become more withdrawn from this painful episode, and more likely to choose not to reinvolve ourselves.

How many of us donate to support the high costs of a crisis management PR firm? Is that why we give to Filoli? Do those expenses in any way meet the mission of the organization? Can we withdraw our donations, or file a class action suit against Ms. D'Agosta and the Governing Board for misuse of funds? I don't know the legal answers, but it seems those with legal responsibilities to Filoli had better be thinking about the ramifications of their recent actions.


45 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:25 pm

If the level of division within the organization were truly exaggerated by the media then I would expect that exaggeration to be reflected in the comments to these articles. Volunteers happy with the rollout, volunteers happy with Cynthia's leadership, have been notably absent in these commentaries.nothing is preventing them from speaking up. However if suddenly after I make this comment support for management appears, I think i would be suspect the PR Manager would be behind it; let's just all agree that there is a division.


17 people like this
Posted by Charlie
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Maybe the crisis management company is another volunteer.


54 people like this
Posted by Former Nature Ed Volunteer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 3, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Okay, okay, I get it. Team Kamer Consulting/D'Agosta/Governing Board wins, and Team Filoli/Volunteers loses.

Usually in a partnership, everyone is on the same team and everyone tries to work together, but there is no longer any collaboration between Filoli management and its volunteers -- management's decisions and choices over the past few months have destroyed the camaraderie that used to exist at Filoli. As a result the staff is frosty and hostile to volunteers, and it's unpleasant to walk into the offices. Who can blame these employees? They'd like to keep their jobs. They're caught in the middle.

Most non-profits would love to have hundreds and hundreds of loyal, well-trained, dedicated, trustworthy, reliable, experienced volunteers, but that's not enough for Filoli management. The volunteers were also told to sign away their rights or leave. Because of their love for Filoli, it's hard for the volunteers to leave -- some people figure the risk is low and sign, some people sign and hope management will change, and some people will not sign. Everyone wishes Filoli could be the loving place it used to be. But for a while at least, things will be different. Damage has been done.

I didn't sign because I had two questions, neither of which was ever answered: (1) why isn't the fact that Filoli carries insurance for the volunteers included in the Volunteer Agreement, and (2) may I cross out the Photo Release? A volunteer does not receive a paycheck, and so a volunteer hopes to receive appreciation and respect, and not to be ignored.

Team Kamer Consulting/D'Agosta/Governing Board has deep pockets to spin its story. Hundreds of volunteers with only their wits, love of Filoli and email/phones have tried to tell their story. The volunteers don't have a budget, don't have a union, aren't entitled to collective bargaining -- management calls the tune, and the volunteers need to dance or leave.

As a last resort, the volunteers contacted the media. When the media listens, let me tell you, it's exhilarating. That is the power of journalism. Even if things don't turn out the way one hopes, it's empowering to have your story told.

I was hoping that this Filoli story would have a David and Goliath ending. But management is determined to win at any cost, and they're willing to throw money at the problem, probably lots of money, no matter that the real price is the destruction of the fabric of Filoli.

A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that today I would say I no longer wish to be associated with the Filoli in its current state. Filoli management's values do not align with my values. I hope for the best for Filoli and have faith that this precious gem will eventually regain the type of management which it richly deserves.


5 people like this
Posted by The PR worked in some places
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm

According to the San Jose Mercury News fewer than 100 volunteers are expected to not sign the agreement and the "uprising" has quitetly ended:
Filoli uprising over -- only 100 volunteers of 1,300 expected to quit
Web Link


37 people like this
Posted by huh?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2015 at 5:32 pm

The Merc's article has left me breathless. Are they kidding? I think the photo of the two smiling Bandana Brigade members should be an indication to anyone about the reliability of this article. All members of the Bandana Brigade have said they will not sign the agreement and are quitting, according to the Almanac's article. So what does the Merc do? It runs a picture of these two people who are quitting, but doesn't say they're no longer volunteers because they refuse to sign the agreement. Unconscionable.


34 people like this
Posted by Watching...
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Mar 3, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Web Link

That links to last year's donor list. As attempts to work with Filoli management have failed, and media involvement has not led to resolution, it's time to let donors know that this organization is near the tipping point -- in the wrong direction. Bigger donors who also feel invested in Filoli may have leverage the volunteer body does not. If you know one of the bigger donors, please contact them with your concerns for Filoli's future.

Cynthia may not care about people but it appears she does care about money and status.


31 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 3, 2015 at 5:56 pm

There is no doubt that this article was a production of the Kramer Consulting Group who is the crisis company hired by Filoli. They weren't even bright enough to understand that the two docents in the picture did not sign the VA and have left Filoli. The Mercury News and the Contra Costa carried the same article, they are owned by the same company.

There is a comment section under each article that is almost empty.....


30 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I'm sure Cynthia D"Agosta approves the Mercury News' latest report BECAUSE it is inaccurate and incomplete.


15 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I believe the Mercury News is looking for comments from docents regarding the article....


12 people like this
Posted by a former Volunteer
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:31 pm

this is a comment on what can happen: I once volunteered at Stanford Hosp. I so enjoyed this unpaid, non-union job...we were all happy. There was a one time accident where a volunteer was injured pushing a wheelchair. There was not a lawsuit, but some hosp.expenses were involved (cost of doing free business). The board, the lawyers, the unions all intervened...guess what...all the volunteers were relegated to talking instead of walking ; so the unions took the 'jobs', the volunteers slowly left and now the hospital pays for all the "formerly free work using wheelchairs done by volunteers". How about that 'real example' of when liability issues separate people who care and have time, to those who work for pay!


32 people like this
Posted by Volunteer 1996
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Yes, like many, I signed the VA, striking out paragraph #3, but not without great reservation. It's simply the long connection and love for this beautiful place "Filoli". A separation would be all too painful. Yet, how many of the 1,000 volunteers gave their signature joyfully?

But will we ever recapture the joy and enthusiasm that once made our guided tours so special & delightful for our visitors? I do not think so, our excitement has been quashed. How very sad for us all!


9 people like this
Posted by former Volunteer
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm

you are so right, it is and will be, as you will find out...perhaps slowly...SAD, SAD, SAD (as I said above, most of us left and never returned.


16 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Mar 4, 2015 at 6:37 am

The San Jose Mercury article needs to be read with knowledge that it was prepared by a public relations firm. I would guess Filol's executive director will blame that firm for any errors in the article.
I am waiting for her to take responsibility and lead.


16 people like this
Posted by redmaid
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:12 am

"I am waiting for her to take responsibility and lead"

When pigs fly in a lemonade sky!


57 people like this
Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:33 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

I have been trying since early yesterday to contact Cynthia D'Agosta with some questions this statement brings up, but neither Ms. D'Agosta nor the crisis management consultant have even acknowledged my emails and phone calls.

Here are some of the questions that need to be answered:

● How many of the 1,000 who have signed the agreement are "active volunteers"?

● Heidi Brown said there are 1,300 active volunteers and 200 more emeritus or inactive volunteers, who were also asked to sign the agreement. This means 500 volunteers may not have signed the agreement and as many as 200 of those who have signed may be emeritus or inactive.

● How can they say losing as many as 500 active volunteers is "no significant loss?"

● Have any programs shut down?

● How many who signed crossed out the liability clause?

● Is Filoli accusing the Almanac of "inaccurate media reports?" If so, in what way were they inaccurate?

● Why has Cynthia D'Agosta refused to speak to the Almanac since we first reached out to her on Feb. 15?

● Is it true Filoli plans to rewrite the agreement and have all volunteers sign again next year, with a liability waiver, even though they had promised volunteers this was a one-time thing?


34 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 4, 2015 at 10:35 am

Thank you Barbara for continuing to be an investigative journalist of integrity.


23 people like this
Posted by A Local
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2015 at 11:00 am

Any way these comments can be sent to the SJMercury to give them a broader perspective than the PR firm gave them?


11 people like this
Posted by Third Party
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2015 at 11:14 am

It is time for most of the people who have written comments above to move on and spend their time on other endeavors. Filoli is loaded with old women who complain and bicker about the smallest things. It is a great property, no doubt about it. Loaded with apparently a bunch of petty volunteers who moan and groan about a very minor and unimportant issue.

I would like to see all of you complain with equal vigor to every company for which you sign waivers of liability - you would be shocked to see how many you sign. Fire your school district, because I am sure you sign waivers of liability when your child or grandchild goes on field trips. Fire your bank and car dealer - because you often sign waivers to sue them as well. Fire the YMCA or whatever gym you belong to - you sign an agreement absolving them of legal liability if you are injured. The list is painfully long.

If your strategy late in life is to load up on opportunities to sue other people for the benefit of your 'heirs and assigns' then go sit in a dark room and stay away from other people. Life has risks.

Filoli needs an influx of young energetic leaders. If the only thing that keeps you volunteering is the promise of liability insurance, you are truly wasting your time, and the time of everyone there that needs to listen to your complains and supervise you.


6 people like this
Posted by Faithful volunteer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Mar 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Dear Third Party,

[Part removed. Please comment on the topic, not on other posters.]

Come on over to the place where, "Make new friends, but keep the old," is the motto --- a place of warmth and humanity.


37 people like this
Posted by Former volunteer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Mar 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm

The Almanac articles on Filoli are accurate. There are other publications stating inaccurate details that some readers assume are true.
I appreciate that Barbara Wood is asking Cynthia D'Agosta to give accurate answers to specific questions. Let's hope that Filoli's Executive Director steps up and gives an interview.


32 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2015 at 2:06 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Actually she should step down and leave. It appears her management style as old and was replaced along time ago. I believe she is the cause of all of the problems. "Do as I say" or get out! Not a good way to treat people.


9 people like this
Posted by docent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2015 at 2:50 pm

[Post removed. Please comment on the topic, not on other posters.]


46 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Mar 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Barbara Wood has done first rate reporting on this subject, and her remaining questions deserve a response. Why does Cynthia D'Agosta refuse to talk? Clear, open communication is a much better approach to management and usually results in respect of the leader.


2 people like this
Posted by Troll
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Thank God this forum is back. Woods I love how your articles move from facts to an opinion forum thanks to the lovely posters. Love how you feel the need to comment on your own article that is quite amazing you don't see that very often. My God did you not proof read your own article before hitting submit. I would think that they (Filoli) would talk to you to help clear up confusion but clearly your articles have become a place for ornery "ex-volunteers" to vent with each other since they can no longer meet up together and do it. I hope that you get some of the answers to your questions but even if you do I'm sure these "ex-volunteers" will continue to view things their way. Old and stubborn if you ask me. They want to have a conversation but to have a conversation that would involve listening, which these "ex-volunteers" can't do. Maybe its a hearing issue, Filoli listened to the volunteers and made changes so seems like there was some progress being made but hear they go again crying anonymously online like myself. Brad Paisely has a song "I'm so much cooler online" 99% of us fit into this song's message. But hey what do I know I just through my opinons and want them to become facts like the rest of you. Hooray, Internet and anonomous postings for making us all experts on subjects of our choosing. And for all the volunteers that want an answer from D'Agosta really would you want it to come online from an article, You demand answers and expect them to come from media willing to bet that unless you were getting a face to face conversation from her you would all still be outraged.


29 people like this
Posted by volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Well Troll is obviously not aware that volunteers tried repeatedly to get answers directly from Cynthia D'Agosta starting back in November. They were never forthcoming. The only response was "sign or leave." That is not what anyone would call being open or communicative. It certainly is not indicative of "listening" on the part of the administration. The only time the administration made any concession in response to the volunteers' concerns was as a "damage control" response after the first Almanac article and not before.

Maybe if Troll/Kramer crises management group had come on the scene earlier, there could have been some meaningful dialogue between administration and volunteers.....but they weren't here then and so we're where we're at now, on an online forum.


6 people like this
Posted by Troll
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Well Volunteer, seems like some people would rather slam Filoli and managers online and bring down an organization instead of trying to work it out behind the scenes. What better way to get your point across than cause extra issues. By creating this type of problem publicly online is just like the vandals that come out during peaceful protests in Oakland. You distract from the main issue and force the efforts into controlling extra affairs. If they were to just not sign and just leave the management would have had to do some sort of outreach instead their efforts are now being spent dispelling rumors and created in these forums. I have volunteered for a few organizations in the past and some I no longer participate in because I disagreed with the direction they were going but I would not go to the lengths that some of these people have done to destroy the work that I or previous volunteers worked so hard to accomplish. For shame to those that previously and currently are trying to besmirch such a beautiful property. If you don't like something you leave and go elsewhere. This entitlement that some people feel these days is nonsensical.


30 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:33 am

Troll claims that volunteers didn't try to "work it out behind the scenes." That is precisely what volunteers DID try to do but to no avail. Cynthia D'Agosta would not engage with us. Nor would Toni Barrack, president of the Governing Board. Communication is a two way process. If one side refuses to engage, the process can't happen. We tried. They didn't.


6 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 7:55 am

So if a lot of volunteers lets just say 200 (low estimate) wanted to get together and discuss the volunteer agreement and rewrite it I wonder how that conversation would go. Have any of you ever tried to make 200 people completely happy? 1300 would be impossible with all kidding aside what could a person(s) do to make 1300 people happy with new rules. I'm sure tough designs were discussed and probably not everyone on the governing board completely loved the document but it is not the purpose of such a document to make you happy. If management backed down from a position that would make them look spineless and incompetent. I have never visited but I think I would have to go now being that it can create such controversy it must be worth at least a visit. Could you imagine if an employee decided to complain about a new policy at a job? They would tell you too bad that is the way it is thank you for voicing your opinion. If you didn't comply most likely you would be told to "Kick rocks". If a large group or workers had the same concerns maybe some leway might be had or a change in the future may come. Creating an agreement for yourself almost defeats the purpose of the document. As a volunteer or employee you are offering your services and expertise to better a company, organization, or government agency. If this was my decsion I would say I'm sorry you feel this way we can work on this in the future. If your ethos doesn't align with a organizations mission/vision that is when you leave and move on. Changes are inevitable anywhere to not change would create a stagnate environment and no progress would ever evolve. Its hard to believe that this is the first controversy they (filoli) has had in the 30 years or so they have been around. I'm sure this will eventually work out and this article can be archived and forgotten.


30 people like this
Posted by volunteer/member
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Troll/MOUNTAN RANGE/whatever,

how does that T Swift song go ....'haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate...' This discussion thread has been specific, well spoken and (yes) direct. No reason to denigrate people for having opinions different from yours. Notice that you don't have a lot of 'likes'? So maybe you are not part of the 99% as you suggest. On a different matter -- the question posed 'how can you please '200 people'? The obvious fact here is that over 1300 Filoli volunteers have been very happy for years -- that's why many of them have served for 10, 15, 20+ years. These are your 'worker bees' -- this is your expertise, your helping hands and free labor. For an organization that depends on volunteers -- this has been a remarkable accomplishment. Up till now Filoli has proven to be a model of success and excellence. Volunteers were coerced into signing the VA -- or give up their volunteer work. Many of the posts here have stated that is why they signed -- not because they are comfortable/confident with the intent of this document. You want to argue that if a competent leader, who had been advised early on that there were concerns in the volunteer ranks, who had the opportunity to redirect and reposition (not abandon) the narrative on this -- would not have done so? A competent leader would have grabbed the opportunity and successfully exploited it -- not put the wall up and ignore it. And that's the real reason Filoli had to employ a 'crisis management firm' to put on a good game face and 'spin' the facts.


30 people like this
Posted by Former Nature Ed Volunteer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

I realized that I forgot to say something in my earlier post, hope you won't mind one more entry, please just skip if it bothers or offends you.

What I wanted to say was that being on the Nature Education Committee (taking school children for 2-hour walks on the trails), we didn't raise much money (if any) for the Filoli mission. Thus, it was important for me to contribute to the fund-raising aspect of Filoli. So every fall, I signed up for as many shifts as I could manage at the big fundraiser Holiday Traditions, a shopping extravaganza. I'm not much of a shopper myself, so I couldn't understand why people would pay an admission fee just to shop. But maybe I do understand, the House always looks fabulous, and it's a way to get in the Holiday Spirit early in December. I always worked in Customer Service, facilitating (co-enabling) shopping -- offering to take people's full shopping bags to a holding area where they could reclaim them later, and giving them a new (empty) shopping bag to fill. I wanted to contribute, to help Filoli raise money.

Little did I know that some of this money (maybe a lot of this money) would be paid to a Crisis Communications Management Company (Kamer Consulting Group) which would subsequently attempt to downplay the appearance of a labor problem at Filoli, to discredit the volunteers who dared to question aspects of the Volunteer Agreement, to minimize the extent of the push-back and discontent amount the volunteer force and to tell the public that these trouble-makers would not be missed, implying that Filoli would be better off without them.

Knowing this, I don't think I would have volunteered at Holiday Traditions. But I didn't consult my vintage "Magic 8 Ball" which probably would have told me "Outlook not good".


36 people like this
Posted by Marilyn Domer
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 10:24 pm

I am someone who loves to visit Filoli. I am not a volunteer or involved in management. I followed this discussion over from KQED's news site.

I would like to tell the volunteers that some of us who visit recognize your dedication and love of Filoli and truly appreciate the hours you put in.

A couple of you need to transfer all these comments over to the SJMercury and other newspapers.

And for heavens sake, ignore people like Troll and Third Party, who may not be real people but part of the public relations firm.

Especially ignore Third Party's sexist and age-hating remarks on Filoli being "loaded with old women." He/they are just baiting you. My experience with non-profits is that often those "old women" are holding the places together.

Best to you all.


11 people like this
Posted by Former Nature Ed Volunteer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 6, 2015 at 9:01 am

Thanks to Marilyn for her support and understanding of the situation at Filoli.

About the "age-hating remarks" -- while some people might not want all of those "old women" around, fortunately Filoli does not discriminate based on age.

The Friends of Filoli document "Volunteer Responsibilities and Policies" states that "Filoli’s policy prohibits conduct that is disrespectful or unprofessional, as well as harassment based on sex, color, gender, age, physical or mental disability, national origin or ancestry, or sexual orientation. This anti-harassment policy applies to all persons involved in the operation of Filoli and prohibits harassment and disrespectful or unprofessional conduct by any volunteer or employee of Filoli, as well as vendors, members, guests, independent contractors, and any other persons."


11 people like this
Posted by former volunteer
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2015 at 12:26 am

Just suppose...there are no volunteers to climb up on ladders to decorate for Holiday Traditions. No Wagon Brigade to tread on slippery stones. No beautiful floral arrangements in every room. If the volunteers don't build it, who will come? Perhaps the crisis management co. and CD'A will volunteer their time to build it and manage it and give the proceeds to Filoli.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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