Groups call for removal of Lacma trustee tied to exploitative telecommunications company

Tom Gores, the founder of Platinum Equity and a trustee at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Diego Uchitel

An organisation devoted to challenging the US incarceration system and a group that champions racial justice have written a letter to the board chairs and director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) calling for the removal of a trustee whose firm owns a company that bills prison inmates for phone calls.

A petition signed by over 100 members of the arts community and authored by the Los Angeles-based artist Jessica Simmons supports the demand by the two advocacy groups, Worth Rises of New York and the Oakland, California organisation Color of Change.

The letter, submitted on Wednesday, and the petition, delivered on 9 September, call for the ouster of Tom Gores, the billionaire founder, chairman and chief executive of the Beverly Hills mergers, acquisitions and operations company Platinum Equity, who joined Lacmas board in 2006. In 2017, Platinum Equity acquired Securus Technologies, which the arts communitys petition denounces “as one of the largest and most exploitative prison telecom corporations in the already woefully unethical prison industry”.

The letter and petition argue that Securus charges “egregious” rates for phone calls from prisons, jails and immigrant detention centers. “Securus makes over $700m annually by price-gouging families—that are disproportionately Black and low-income—as they struggle to stay connected to their incarcerated loved ones,” the letter from Worth Rises and Color of Change states. “The corporation routinely charges as much as $25 for a simple 15-minute phone call and similarly egregious fees for the myriad of other services it peddles to correctional administrators.”

Gores, 56, did not respond to requests for comment that were submitted through Platinum Equity. There was no immediate comment from Lacma.

But The Los Angeles Times reported that a Platinum Equity partner, Mark Barnhill, commented in an email: “Were doing the hard work of effecting real reform, we understand that execution matters more than rhetoric, and we trust the work speaks for itself. They dont want to acknowledge or assist with our reforms because that would rob them of an adversary they need to fuel their cause.”

The move by Worth Rises and Color of Change evokes the successful drive to remove Warren B. Kanders, chief executive of the military and police equipment maker Safariland, from the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art last year. Kanders resigned after an extended protest campaign by activists asserting that Safariland supplied tear gas that was used against immigrants flocking to the US border with Mexico.

The letter and petition were addressed to Elaine P. Wynn and Tony P. Ressler, co-chairs of Lacmas board, and Michael Govan, the museums director. “Put simply,” the letter says, “Tom Gores is a prison profiteer and has no place on the board of a prestigious public museum like Lacma.”

In addition to Kanderss departure from the Whitney, the art community petition cites the P.A.I.N. coalition led by the artist Nan Goldin, which has pressed museums to reject money associated with the Sackler familys profits from opioid sales, and those who hRead More – Source

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