• Anthony Chase

Details emerge about Shea's meeting


When Michael Murphy, president of Shea’s, returns to his office on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, after a month and a half absence, there will be a decided chill in the air. He will be reunited with a staff, the majority of whom, have clearly stated that they want him gone.


In the wake of today’s hastily called 70-minute meeting of the Shea’s staff with members of the Board of Directors, tales of a tendentious and highly dramatic meeting are beginning to emerge.


Staff members had been tipped off, in advance, that the purpose of the meeting was to inform them that Murphy would be retained. They had questions. When Shea's board chairman, Randall K. Best, of Gernatt Asphalt Products began the meeting by stating that they would take no questions, a feeling of condescension was exacerbated according to attendees who, fearful of retaliation, ask not to be named. Attendees also report that in explaining the decision to retain Murphy, but in an altered role, Best asserted and affirmed that the benefits of Murphy’s “vision” for Shea’s supersede any complaints about his allegedly abusive and demeaning leadership style. Best reportedly also affirmed that anyone who wished to resign would simply be replaced.


Murphy’s new role leaves him in charge of Shea’s external affairs, but puts director of operations Robert Brunschmid in charge of day to day internal concerns, an arrangement which some staff members describe as “business as usual,” but which was clearly intended as a means to separate staff from direct contact with Murphy, while retaining his vision and talents, as well as theirs during a six-month trial period. Presumably, the board is hoping this time will allow for healing, and for the organization to focus on its work without the distraction of the current dispute.


Multiple attendees confirm that in one of the most dramatic moments of the meeting, Best, displeased with something director of arts engagement and education Thembi Duncan had said, advanced toward Duncan in a threatening manner, seemingly intending to intimidate her. This prompted Duncan to rise from her seat and push a chair in a defensive posture. Duncan has submitted her letter of resignation on Monday, but will continue at Shea's for the next several weeks. This incident is also documented in an update to an article by Mark Sommer in the Buffalo News that was first posted this afternoon. Sommer has been providing detailed and often startling reporting on the situation at Shea’s all week.

a woman on a staircase
Thembi Duncan , Shea's director of arts engagement and education