James Madison’s ‘Montpelier’ fires several long-time employees, who claim it was ‘retaliation’

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 11:01 PM EDT
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ORANGE, Va. (WVIR) - A dispute over the balance of leadership at James Madison’s Montpelier has led to several firings announced on Monday by the Cultural Heritage Partners.

Three staff members were fired on Monday and two others were suspended. One additional staffer was terminated last week. Now, the attorney for the Montpelier Descendants Committee is calling it retribution.

Montpelier’s descendant community has advocated for parity on the Montpelier Foundation’s Board, asking for a seat at the decision-making and governing table. Now, some of the same people who backed that are out of a job.

One of them is former Montpelier Director of Archeology Matthew Reeves. NBC29 asked his what his reaction was when he learned he was being fired.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” Reeves, who served in that role since 2000, said. “But the way that this has happened, that was a surprise. The wholesale rejection of what we built and doing it in such an egregious way.”

Reeves was on vacation when he received the news, as was his colleague Elizabeth Chew. She was the executive vice president and chief curator. The other employees who were fired included the Director of Communications Christy Moriarty and Alex Walsh, the events manager.

We asked Reeves why he believes CEO Roy Young fired him and the others.

“Fear,” he said. “Fear of not being able to control people’s ideas, not being able to bully and harass people into breaking their will.”

Greg Werkheiser, the general counsel to the Montpelier Descendants Committee, said the descendant community “cares deeply” about Montpelier. But he cautioned the “continued controversy” driven by the CEO and board chair could cause “permanent damage” to Montpelier’s reputation.

“They trot out descendants when they need to raise money or they want to enhance the reputation, but behind the scenes when it comes to the tough work of actually sharing power, they’ve found every which way they can to avoid doing that really important thing,” Werkheiser said.

Reeves is advocating for one potential solution.

“Obviously, the losses of jobs are sad,” Reeves said. “But it’s that lost trust. And I think we can gain that back. We just need a different group at the board.”

We reached out to Montpelier but have not yet heard back.

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