Judy Francis Zankel, one of the board members of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, who resigned in protest of the ousting of its director earlier this month, has pulled a $5 million donation to the institution, the New York Times reports. In an email addressed to Smithsonian secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, the arts patron called the Cooper-Hewitt’s treatment of Caroline Baumann “unconscionable and disgraceful.”

After an anonymous complaint was made about a potential conflict of interest, the Smithsonian investigator general determined Baumann’s 2018 wedding raised questions about whether she was using her position at the institution to gain favors, specifically a discount on a designer dress and a venue for the celebration at no cost. Baumann has since publicly denied the allegations and called the investigation into her wedding a “sham.”

Following her departure, seven of the museum’s twenty-seven board members quit. In addition to Zankel’s decision to withdraw her donation, the design journalist Arlene Hirst told the New York Times that she plans to take the institution out of her will. In response to the criticism, the Smithsonian said it “abides by a code of ethical conduct, which demands the highest standards of honesty, integrity, professionalism, and loyalty. . . . As a public institution subject to federal oversight, we must maintain a shared commitment to these core values and an expectation of ethical conduct in all of our activities.”


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