A former fundraiser at the National Young Arts Foundation has sued the prominent Miami-based arts nonprofit, claiming she was fired after reporting what she alleges was financial malfeasance by her boss to organization administrators.
The fired fundraiser, Melinda Marcuse, claims in a lawsuit filed June 22 that her supervisor, YoungArts vice president for development Stacey Glassman Mizener, improperly sought reimbursement on “multiple” occasions from the organization for personal lunches, dinners and other outings with family members and friends that were unrelated to foundation business. Her suit does not specify a dollar amount.
Marcuse says in the suit she was subjected to retaliation after reporting the purportedly improper expense filings to YoungArts human resources head Samantha Wheatley.
In a brief statement released through a public relations firm, YoungArts declined comment on the suit, first reported in the Daily Business Review. YoungArts has not yet filed a formal response in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
“We are aware of the complaint that has been filed against National Young Arts Foundation.,” the statement reads. “It is our policy as an organization not to comment on any pending litigation.”
The suit says Marcuse also complained to Wheatley about what she described as racial “harassment” directed by Glassman Mizener at a development associate from the African nation of Ghana who worked under her. Marcuse claims Glassman Mizener asked the unnamed employee “whether they had buildings (in) Ghana, implying that the African country was not civilized.”
The suit does not say whether YoungArts administrators acted on her complaints, but suggests the expense reports in question were approved.
“YOUNGARTS was in fact conducting itself in a manner that was illegal,” the suit claims.
Marcuse’s lawsuit says she was subjected to retaliation by Glassman Mizener after she went to Wheatley. Glassman Mizener gave her a poor performance review at her next evaluation after months of “excellent” evaluations, overloaded her with an “unmanageable” amount of work, then eventually fired her, the suit says. The complaint says Marcuse worked at the foundation from July 2017 to Nov. 2019.
The suit contends her firing violated a Florida law that protects whistleblowers in private businesses. Marcuse is represented by Ina Ravindran of the Miami law firm Weil Snyder & Ravindran.
YoungArts has built a prominent reputation by identifying and supporting young artists and performers from around the country through grants, residencies and other training programs and assistance. Marcuse’s lawsuit notes the group has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, an independent group that evaluates how nonprofits spend donations.