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Former North Miami MoCA director files federal lawsuit against city

Museum director Babacar M'Bow at the MoCA in North Miami, July 2015.
Museum director Babacar M'Bow at the MoCA in North Miami, July 2015. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Months after Babacar M’Bow was fired as director of North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art due to allegations of sexual harassment, he has sued the city in federal court.

M’Bow filed the lawsuit March 9 and named the city, interim city manager Arthur Sorey and personnel director Joe Roglieri. He is asking a judge to declare North Miami’s decision unlawful, calling for a complaint hearing before the city’s civilian personnel board and asking for an order to prevent the city from hiring a new MoCA director.

“The city, Sorey and Roglieri know that the city can only terminate M’Bow for just cause and that the city must provide a hearing before an impartial personnel board comprised of members of the community,” the complaint reads.

M’Bow and his lawyers also call the staff investigation into the allegations against M’Bow a “witch hunt.”

The investigation began in December after an employee, Tiffany Madera, who serves as outreach and programs manager for the museum, alleged that on multiple occasions M’Bow used inappropriate language and sexual innuendo with employees, particularly female staff members. M’Bow and assistant director Alan Waufle were initially placed on paid administrative leave after Madera’s complaint.

Throughout the process and in interviews with city staff, M’Bow denied the allegations. He does again in the complaint.

“The interim city manager, Sorey, and the personnel director, Roglieri, pursued a strategy of using false and outlandish accusations, mysteriously fed to media outlets, as a basis to remove M’Bow as the director of MoCA,” the complaint reads.

Sorey said that the city attorney looked into the complaint and he and city staff met and reviewed the lawsuit last week.

“I can’t make any comments about it because it’s a legal matter,” Sorey said. “The legal department will take its course from here.”

The interim manager made the decision to fire M’Bow in December and appointed Natasha Colebrook-Williams, the city's chief of staff, as interim museum director.

North Miami is searching for M’Bow’s replacement and seeking to fill open spots on the museum’s board of trustees. City leaders hope to keep MoCA on track as a major attraction in the city for years to come.

The museum is currently closed for installation of the next exhibit, Acta Non Verba: the Art of Marielle Plaisir, which is set to open March 24.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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