Flag House director fired

April 25, 1996|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF Staff writer Holly Selby contributed to this report.

The director of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and 1812 Museum was fired yesterday and left under police escort after three members of the executive committee delivered a letter of termination and demanded that she leave immediately.

Cynthia A. Nauta, 49, said her differences with the museum's executive committee stemmed from a clash over the museum's direction. She said she has brought new blood into the museum's membership, tried to make it "relevant" and tried to make it a greater part of the community.

"This has been a problem. They want it to be small," she said.

Charles C. Stieff II, president of the directorate of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Association Inc., confirmed the firing, but declined to give any details. "My lawyers have told me not to say anything," he said.

Kay Cavanaugh, a board member for 10 years, said there was "the feeling was that the work was not getting accomplished in the way that we had anticipated."

"There were some problems among the staff and some inefficiencies, and it was on that basis that we decided to ask her to leave," she said.

Ms. Nauta, who made $24,000 a year, was hired to run the museum two years ago after studying its operations as part of her master's degree program at the Johns Hopkins University. The museum, at 844 E. Pratt St., is the house where Mary Young Pickersgill, a 37-year-old widow, sewed the 30-by-42-foot flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814. It has an annual budget of $95,000.

Dan Brooke, a board member for three years, said a member of the executive committee called him yesterday afternoon and told him Ms. Nauta had been fired.

"My first thought was, well, she's a good woman, and I wish her luck, and she has a lot of talent and I'm sure she'll move on," he said. "The only thing I can see is they hired her and told her what they wanted done, and they felt that she isn't doing what they told her to do."

Ms. Nauta said that yesterday morning, Mr. Stieff; Hall Worthington, vice president; and Harry F. Reid Jr., treasurer, brought the termination letter to the museum and demanded that she leave immediately.

In part the letter read: "This letter will notify you that your employment by the Flag House Association is terminated effective immediately."

"I refused to take the letter," Ms. Nauta said. "I said it was impossible for them to fire me because I can only be fired by the board."

"I told them that if they wanted me out of there that they would have to call the police," she said.

According to Ms. Nauta, Mr. Worthington made the call. Two squad cars arrived and officers recommended that Ms. Nauta leave, rather than risk arrest, she said.

"I then gathered my things together, turned over my two sets of keys, and I left, under police escort," she said.

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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