Dede Wilsey Resigns as President of Fine Arts Museums of S.F.

The imperious socialite had weathered scandals in the past, but her 21-year tenure came to an end on the same day as a meeting of the Legion of Honor's Board of Trustees.

Roberto Soncin Gerometta / Getty Images

Diane Buchanan “DeDe” Wilsey, the kind of central-casting socialite who poses for photographs while holding a coiffured lapdog, announced that she will step down as the president of the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), which includes both the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum.

She has held the position through more than two decades, but cracks had long begun to appear. As attorney Anmarie Mabbut wrote in an op-ed in the Examiner yesterday ahead of the Legion’s Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Wilsey worked hard to lengthen her tenure even as the organization flouted financial reporting requirements and saw its bond rating fall to near-junk levels.

FAMSF has yet to release a statement, but the Chronicle reports that Wilsey will elevate herself to the title of chairwoman emerita — but with no specific date given.

Wilsey is expected to hand the reins to fellow board member and hedge-fund guy Jason Moment. This development comes after FAMSF and Wilsey has been embroiled in several controversies, namely its inability to retain high-level staff — director Max Hollein departed for New York’s Metropolitan Museum after barely two years, practically swapping roles with Thomas Campbell, who had left Manhattan trailed by allegations of sexual improprieties. Reputed to have an authoritarian style, Wilsey was involved in the 2015 canning of a high-profile curator, Colin Bailey, and there was also the matter of the $450,000 check paid without the board’s authorization to a museum engineer who had suffered a heart attack. (A whistle-blowing CFO, Michelle Gutierrez, suffered retaliation up to and including termination for bringing this episode to light.)

A prominent Republican donor and daughter of a former diplomat, Wilsey’s ex-husband John Traina later married Danielle Steel. Her stepson Sean Wilsey wrote a sort of Mommie Dearest-esque memoir called Oh, the Glory of It All, and Armistead Maupin’s character DeDe Halcyon from Tales of the City is a thinly veiled portrayal of Wilsey.

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