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Donaher reinstated by CEPA board

Sean J. Donaher, who was suspended with pay from his job as executive director of the CEPA Gallery last month pending an internal investigation of the gallery’s finances, has been reinstated as director, according to a statement released Wednesday by the gallery’s board.

According to the statement, the board voted unanimously to reinstate Donaher at its meeting Dec. 1, and he reassumed his post Monday.

“Moving forward, the CEPA Gallery board of directors has set in place safeguards and new institutional practices to improve financial management and oversight,” the statement says.

The statement does not specify the nature of the organization’s financial or managerial troubles, or the findings of the internal investigation into Donaher’s handling of gallery finances. But it does attempt to reassure the gallery’s funders and members of the community that Donaher and the board now “stand united to assure our many community stakeholders that the gifts and funding we so generously receive continue strengthening this revered – and necessary – organization.”

A call and an email to Donaher were not returned late Wednesday.

Donaher has led the Main Street gallery since 2010 and has been involved with its operations since 1999 while also serving as director of Big Orbit Gallery on Essex Street.

In the statement, CEPA board President Nancy J. Parisi wrote that “the CEPA Gallery board and staff welcome any questions.” However, Parisi declined to answer any questions about the nature of the board’s concerns with Donaher’s management of the gallery’s finances, saying that she “cannot right now.”

In the wake of Donaher’s suspension, Joanna M. Gillespie, the gallery’s special projects director, resigned in protest of the board’s decision and published a lengthy and widely circulated letter detailing her concerns with the organization’s board and its handling of the matter.

The CEPA Gallery, which occupies several floors in the historic Market Arcade building in the Theatre District, has a long record of presenting cutting-edge photography exhibitions since the mid-1970s. Its current exhibitions feature a collection of photographs of the dilapidated H.H. Richardson Complex, pictures of the Sun’s surface and close-ups of snowflakes by Alan Friedman and Douglas Levere and sculpture by Buffalo artist Liz Lessner.

It also has several award-winning educational programs, one of which was honored last year by first lady Michelle Obama in a ceremony at the White House.


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