Former Art Gallery of Calgary CEO Sued for Nearly $500,000; Loses New Job

Update, May 10: CBC Calgary is reporting that Calgary Police Services charged Cooper with six counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count each of theft under $5,000, mischief, obstruction and falsifying documents on Wednesday. Former CEO and president of the Art Gallery of Calgary, Valerie Cooper, is being sued…

Update, May 10: CBC Calgary is reporting that Calgary Police Services charged Cooper with six counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count each of theft under $5,000, mischief, obstruction and falsifying documents on Wednesday.

Former CEO and president of the Art Gallery of Calgary, Valerie Cooper, is being sued by the AGC to recover $497,586 in allegedly falsified expenses.

Fast Forward Weekly broke the story yesterday afternoon in a story by editor Drew Anderson, highlighting some of the alleged expenses:

“The civil suit against Cooper, outlined in court documents obtained by Fast Forward Weekly, alleges she charged the gallery for a litany of expenses, from massages and parking, to $12,126 worth of artwork that, according to an affidavit by board chair Gwen Randall, ended up on Cooper’s condo walls, $185,129 of ‘fictitious framing,’ $66,978 of unauthorized travel, $89,250 towards rent on her downtown condo, and non-existent loan repayments to the tune of $124,000.”

CBC British Columbia is reporting that Cooper’s job offer from Kelowna’s Rotary Centre for the Arts has been withdrawn. The gallery announced on May 2 that it had hired Cooper as its new general manager, only to rescind the offer a day later.

Cooper was placed on administrative leave from the AGC on March 13 after the gallery received notice from Calgary Police Services that they were launching an investigation into “possible defalcation of funds at the Plaintiff,” according to the Calgary Herald.

Cooper’s departure from the gallery was announced in a press release on March 30. Noticeably absent from the announcement was any gratitude or acknowledgement of Cooper’s 8-year tenure at the gallery.

“The Board of The Art Gallery of Calgary (AGC) announces that Valerie Cooper is no longer with the Gallery. In the interim, an internal appointment will be made to ensure our exhibition, education and programming activities continue without interruption,” said the e-mail announcement.

Both Fast Forward and the Herald report that the AGC has been on precarious financial ground for some time, with board members handing over their own money to cover gaps in grants. Multiple employees have also allegedly left positions at the gallery due to “ethical concerns,” according to Fast Forward.

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