Flanders House taken over by diplomats
The controversial former director of the Flanders House in New York City, Philip Fontaine, will not be replaced, the Flemish government has announced.
Fontaine was sacked last month after allegations of financial mismanagement, including payments made to a company run by his partner. He was also accused of operating a disastrous personnel policy, which led to one staff member contacting the Flemish politician Jean-Marie Dedecker of the LDD party. Dedecker exposed the allegations against Fontaine after a visit to New York when he personally met with members of the staff of Flanders House.
Fontaine’s job will be taken by a member of the diplomatic corps, and Flanders House will represent Flanders across the entire US. Previously, the region had a diplomat in Washington, but the former occupant of that post, Bart Hendrickx, left over two years ago and has since become head of the international office of the Catholic University of Leuven.
Under the decision, Flanders House in New York will lose its non-profit status to become a fully-fledged diplomatic outpost, just like the Flanders Houses in London or Madrid. The change also means that the governing board – who apparently had been warned of Fontaine’s problems but did nothing – will be scrapped, with responsibility for the running of Flanders House passing to the Flemish government. Flanders minister president Kris Peeters, who has responsibility for the region’s foreign affairs, will be in charge.
While a suitable diplomat is being sought, the running of Flanders House will be taken over by Kris Dierckx, who represents Flanders at the UN organisations in Geneva. His first job will be to sort out the social status of Flanders House employees in New York, who were left by Fontaine with no sickness insurance.