Uxorious Museum Director Accused of Nepotism

Wife of director hired as "consultant" to oversee museum branding

Husband and wife team Peter Friess and Birgit Binner have worked together at a number of museums over the years, in Germany, Switzerland and now in San Jose at the Tech Museum of Innovation.

However, Binner didn't start working on a two-year branding contract at the museum which pays $400,000 and provides for free office space, until after Friess became director.

The non-profit, taxpayer-supported museum's board of directors say that there was no conflict of interest in Binner's selection -- hers was the lowest bid for the contract.

However, it was Friess who suggested the museum needed a design consultant in the first place.

And employees, or what's left of them -- the museum's staff has been halved in the last decade -- told the San Jose Mercury News that the position was crafted to all but guarantee Binner's selection, and that Binner never actually submitted a formal portfolio of her work for consideration.

But since the museum is a nonprofit that just happens to receive $1.3 million from the city of San Jose, and not actually a government agency, there is no law against nepotism.

It's just considered bad form.

Photo by Michael Gray.

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