The way volunteers are used and managed has also completely changed. The estate has more employees and fewer volunteers than in the past, and volunteers have been barred from many of the jobs they previously did.
One more recent change at Filoli is who works there.
Since Kara Newport became Filoli's executive director in September 2016, at least nine longtime employees have been fired or quit their Filoli jobs, with several others hired by Ms. Newport leaving within months of their hiring.
It's a rate of turnover nearing 20 percent for an organization Ms. Newport says now has the equivalent of 64 full-time employees.
Among those who have left are: 17-year veteran Cathy Rampley, the education program administrator; 10-year veteran Linda Fujimoto, the retail manager and buyer for Filoli's gift and garden shop and Holiday Traditions; 10-year veteran Beth Lau, the marketing manager; nine-year veterans Gina Rossi, the visitor services lead, Christina Syrett, the public relations head, and Donna Kenison, the manager of member and volunteer services; three-year veteran Alyssa Gillooley, the administrative assistant to the executive director and board; and garden shop employees Ann Harara (eight years) and Nancy Hoffacker (10 years).
Employees hired during Ms. Newport's tenure who have already come and gone: Lori Stone, who was director of external relations for six months; and Kevin Hall, who was supervisor of visitor services for two months.
Four of the women who have left filed a lawsuit alleging violations of employment law.
Behind the departures
In late December, Filoli and four former employees who had left within six months of Ms. Newport's hiring reached a confidential settlement to the lawsuit filed by the women.
Both the women's attorney and Ms. Newport said they could say nothing other than that the suit was settled to both parties' "mutual satisfaction." The former employees claimed age discrimination and other employment-related violations.
While the settlement is confidential, a lot of information about what happened to the employees is not. That's because Filoli decided to appeal when it was ordered to pay unemployment benefits to three of the women. Recordings of the appeals hearings with three administrative law judges, and all the evidence entered in the hearings, are public records, which the Almanac obtained through a California Public Records Act request. All testimony was given under oath.
Filoli appealed the rulings awarding unemployment benefits to Linda Fujimoto, Alyssa Gillooley and Donna Kenison. In some of the cases, Filoli filed multiple appeals, but in the end the women all received benefits. Three different administrative law judges found that each woman had either been fired without cause or had voluntarily left for good cause.
Employees of the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board said they did not have records of any appeal of benefits awarded to Gina Rossi, the fourth former employee in the lawsuit.
Many current and former Filoli volunteers and employees were eager to talk about the events that led to the departures of the four women and other changes that have taken place at Filoli in the time since Ms. Newport was hired, although most asked to speak anonymously.
Through their attorney, the four women who filed the lawsuit declined to be interviewed by The Almanac.
On Dec. 12, Filoli was provided a synopsis of this story and the quotes used in it, and given a chance to comment. Ms. Newport responded in an emailed statement that Filoli does not comment on personnel matters. She added: "We currently have a very positive, passionate, creative and supportive team of staff that are working hand-in-hand with me, in partnership with volunteers and with the full support of the Board of Directors and National Trust for Historic Preservation."
Carolyn Daley, the president of Filoli's governing board, said the board "is not only supportive, but excited about the changes that have evolved as a result of Kara Newport's leadership over the past year."
See the complete text of the two women's comments at AlmanacNews.com.
Linda Fujimoto and Holiday Traditions
Linda Fujimoto was 66 and had worked at Filoli for more than 10 years when she was asked to leave in November 2016, three days into the nine-day Holiday Traditions event that she oversaw. She had announced that she planned to retire less than two months later, on Jan. 6.
According to the appeals hearing records, Ms. Fujimoto was called in by Ms. Newport on Nov. 28, and questioned about an emailed letter a volunteer had sent to board members the night before. Ms. Fujimoto was listed as having been copied on the email.
The email, entered as evidence in the hearing, said in part: "Did the board really authorize Kara to dismantle the signature Filoli events, discourage and divide the staff, and again disrupt the volunteers like what happened with the volunteer agreement flap?"
The letter said Holiday Traditions sales "have exceeded last year's numbers, but have not met Kara's goals despite the fact that all three days have been sold out."
"There is nothing more we can control to meet Kara's uninformed goals. Yet the staff are very concerned about what may happen to Filoli, to our reputation in the community and to overall morale... ." the email said.
"Staff have taken a lot of abuse," the email said, prompting the email and a request that Holiday Traditions "be allowed to finish as planned without further meddling by an inexperienced-with-the-ways-of-Filoli ED (executive director)."
"I didn't know anything about the letter," Ms. Fujimoto told the administrative law judge. Ms. Fujimoto said Ms. Newport "was mad that I did not come to her with this letter," but that she had been so busy she had not seen it.
"She said, 'Get off the property.' Gave me 10 minutes to get off the property," Ms. Fujimoto said. "I said, 'Are you firing me?' She said, 'I want you off the property.' "
Lisa Thompson, Filoli's human resources director, told a slightly different story to the judge. "Linda said, 'Would you like for me to go?'" Ms. Thompson said. "And Kara said, 'That would probably be best for right now for that to happen. You can go on ahead and head on out,'" Ms. Thompson said.
Ms. Thompson testified there were no written reprimands in Ms. Fujimoto's personnel files and there had been no warning she might be fired.
"I'd been there 10 years, had an impeccable record, everyone loved me. When (Kara Newport) arrived, it was just a different game," Ms. Fujimoto testified.
She also testified that during the first three days of the 2016 Holiday Traditions, which was Filoli's biggest fundraiser of the year, sales had been between $220,000 and $240,000 each day, far above the $180,000 to $190,000 in daily sales of the previous year.
Someone who formerly worked with Ms. Fujimoto (and who asked not to reveal her name) said Ms. Fujimoto made the Holiday Traditions event, which had gone on for 29 years, into something "heart-stopping."
"She was so easy to work with," the woman said. Each year, as the house filled with volunteers opening boxes of merchandise and decorating trees, Ms. Fujimoto's "name was being called out from every room," the woman said. "The more chaos around her, the calmer she was," she said.
"Linda (Fujimoto) went beyond," she said. "They had a gem in her as a worker."
The woman said after Ms. Fujimoto was told to leave, some of the workers called and asked her: "What do we do? Do we walk out of this place?" Ms. Fujimoto told them to "stay and make it the best Christmas ever," the former co-worker said.
'She would flip'
At an appeal hearing, Ms. Fujimoto testified that she was subjected to "bullying and the hostile environment and discrimination by Kara (Newport)."
"She hated me," Ms. Fujimoto said. "Anything I did, she would question it."
"She'd bully you, she'd harass you," she said
She added: "She gets out of control. She had a temper like you can't believe. She would flip."
"I'm afraid of her, I really am," Ms. Fujimoto said.
Ms. Thompson, however, testified that she had "not experienced the words that were used to describe Kara."
"I have never heard Kara raise her voice. She is direct. She is confident. She knows her business," she said. "She asks a lot of questions about everyone," Ms. Thompson said.
Ms. Thompson also said she has not been subject to age discrimination. "I'm 64 years old and I felt that I've been treated appropriately," she said.
The administrative law judge ruled that Ms. Fujimoto had "a reasonable, good faith and honest fear of harm to (her) health and safety from the work environment and conditions of employment" and should receive unemployment compensation.
Employees in tears
Volunteers say they have seen several employees in tears. A current employee, who asked that her name not be used because she wants to keep her job, said most Filoli employees are now very careful of what they say and whom they speak with. "Staff no longer has the extra pep in its step," she said. "We're just afraid to comment one way or another."
Ms. Newport "tends to reprimand volunteers and staff in front of people," she said.
Dream jobs are turning into nightmares, she said. "Everybody feels the same way. It's become more of a job, that you almost get up in the morning and dread coming to," she said.
"I think changes need to be made," the employee said. "They need to make money.
"It is a business, we understand it," she said.
However, she said, "I think the spirit and the heart of the (Bourn and Roth) families are being overlooked."
Donna Kenison was 57 and manager of volunteer and member services when she left the job she had held since 2008, barely a month into Ms. Newport's tenure.
"I was really looking forward to working with the new executive director and I had no intention of quitting," Ms. Kenison testified.
"In the three short weeks in which I worked with the new Executive Director, I was called into her office numerous times to be reprimanded," a memo from her personnel files entered as evidence says. "I was accused of doing and saying things I did not do nor say," she wrote. "When I attempted to explain myself I was told I was making excuses.
"I was so defeated and discouraged that I went out on medical leave. Toward the end of my leave, I realized that I could not jeopardize my mental and emotional health by returning to this hostile work environment.
"I was being forced out with unreasonable treatment and I could not endure the mistreatment any longer."
She wrote: "I believe I have a boss who will never be satisfied with my job performance. My efforts are minimized and deemed unsatisfactory. I am not respected. I feel the harassment and workplace bullying I have been experiencing will continue. I cannot endure more of this abusive treatment under Kara Newport.
"All of this has taken a toll on me. I am tired and beaten up."
However, Ms. Newport told the administrative hearing judge, "at no time did (Ms. Kenison) express to us that she had mental anguish about the way in which she was being treated."
Ms. Newport did admit, however, that Ms. Kenison had, at least once, left a meeting with her in tears.
"It was our goal to have ... all employees be as effective as possible," she said.
The administrative law judge twice ruled that Ms. Kenison should receive benefits. "The claimant was not able to return to work and resigned from her position due to mental and emotional stress," the administrative law judge said.
"The claimant voluntarily quit the most recent work with good cause," she wrote.
Alyssa Gillooley, administrative assistant
Alyssa Gillooley, who had worked at Filoli for only three years but had served two executive directors and two interim directors, lasted only about two months after Kara Newport took over.
Her original unemployment benefit award said: "The department finds the reasons for the discharge do not meet the definition of misconduct connected with the work."
Like Ms. Fujimoto, Ms. Gillooley, who was 55 at the time, was put on administrative leave. Ms. Thompson testified that "it was a decision that was made by Ms. Newport."
"There were communication disconnects," Ms. Thompson said.
Ms. Gillooley testified that she had never been fired from a job before. Before coming to Filoli, she had worked for the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto for 17 years, according to her LinkedIn page. She taught Sunday school and volunteered for a nonprofit that raised funds to build schools in Africa.
"The first four or five weeks, (Kara Newport) treated me really well," she testified. "And then something changed ... . She wanted me out of there." The Monday after she was fired, Ms. Gillooley said, there was someone else in her job.
"I tried to work with Kara," she testified. "I said what can I do, how can I improve?"
"She tried to be intimidating, and she was," she said about Ms. Newport.
A memo written by Ms. Gillooley entered as evidence in the appeals hearing said that when Ms. Newport first came to Filoli, "she told me she wanted a lock on her door because she likes to lock employees out. At her old job she would lock the door and hide from her employees. She was serious," the memo says.
"I found that Kara would forget and she was very unorganized," she wrote. "She forgets things and then blames me for not providing her with what she needs."
The memos from Ms. Newport found in Ms. Kenison's and Ms. Gillooley's files are remarkably similar. "There can be a harshness to your words and tone," she wrote in a memo to Ms. Kenison. She told Ms. Gillooley, "upon occasion your tone and manner in which you approach situations can be punitive, scolding and overall negative."
Ms. Gillooley asked Ms. Newport to help her try to work on that. She wrote that she had asked her boss: "From now on when you think my tone is bad, can you call me on it?"
"Her response to me was cold and curt. 'Not my job to do that.'"
Ms. Newport also told Ms. Gillooley, in two separate memos: "Not everyone needs to know everything."
To Ms. Kenison she wrote: "You need to become far more comfortable with not being in the 'know' on everything."
Too many directors
Many volunteers and employees expressed their frustration with the fact that Filoli has had five executive directors and two interim executives since 2005, when Anne Taylor retired after leading the organization for 16 years. Susanne Pandich lasted only one year, followed by Jane Risser, who lasted six years. Bob Walker then served as interim executive director before Cynthia D'Agosta was hired and served three years. Before Ms. Newport was hired, Norm Robinson served as interim director.
"When she first came, we were all so excited to meet this smiling young woman," the current employee said of Ms. Newport.
"We've been very patient," she said, adding that Filoli has been in need of good leadership from an executive director for a long time. "The last ones don't seem to be truly what we need," the employee said.
This story contains 2629 words.
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