Arts & Culture
4:54 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Archibald Steps Down From History Museum, Receives Large Payout Of Cash

Credit (via Wikimedia Commons)

While Robert Archibald is stepping down as president of the Missouri History Museum, he will be getting a financial payout of close to a million dollars.

The museum’s board of trustees accepted Archibald’s resignation on Friday.

Despite the circumstances of his departure, Archibald himself will still be receiving a payout of $566,000 for unused vacation, plus $270,000 for a six-month consult contract.  All told, $836,000, as he walks out the door.

For its part, the Museum’s Board of Trustees still maintain there was nothing unusual about Archibald’s compensation, or a series of land deals made without prior authorization from the board.  The board chairman had nothing but praise for Archibald’s tenure as president.

“Regret, that’s what I’m feeling today,” said Board of Trustees Chairman John Roberts.  “Bob has done a terrific job for this institution, for this community, and it’s a shame that he’s been driven to this resignation.”

Investigation going forward

Last week the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a measure giving them subpoena power and announced a plan to hold public hearings into the museum’s finances and leadership.

Gloria Wessels sits on the board of the Zoo-Museum District which distributes funds collected from city and county sales tax, to the History Museum, as well as the botanical guard, the art museum, the zoo and the science center.

She says it’s not surprising the board is defending the generous terms of Archibald’s contract.

“The trustees are the ones who made his contract with him, he reports to the trustees, so they all think it’s okay,” remarked Wessels.  “I mean, if I was hiring him and I gave him those contracts I would say the same thing just to protect myself.”

Wessels says the ZMD has asked for documentation to prove Archibald’s vacation balances are accurate, but the Museum claims the records do not exist.

In defense of Archibald

Credit Courtesy Mo. History Museum

Archibald’s supporters on the board of trustees and in the Zoo-Museum District routinely point to the growth of the organization under his 24 years, specifically the expansion of the Emerson Center in 2000 and the large number of artifacts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Almost completely absent from the discussion is whether Archibald’s $515,000 pay and benefit package, including several retirement plans, a $33,000 annual housing allowance and six weeks of sabbatical and four weeks of vacation, is anything out of the ordinary.  Or whether it's a good bargain for taxpayers.

“This is my personal feeling, we think Bob has been victimized by some kind of local political uproar and it’s just a tragedy in the community, an absolute tragedy," said museum trustee Frank Steeves.

“He’s decided to walk away from a very nice contract.  I think this is typical of Bob, taking the high road and looking out for others.”

The executive committee of the museum’s board of trustees says they will form an executive search committee in the coming days.

Bob Archibald has denied requests for comment.

Update: “Bob did the right thing.”

St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay says Archibald did the right thing when he stepped down last Friday.

“I think Bob did the right thing,” Slay says.  “You know, Bob, he loved this organization very, very much.   I think he felt his continuing presence there was going to create too much controversy in the future.  But, in the end, hopefully we can move forward and keep the History Museum strong, and the Zoo Museum District strong, as well.”

Slay says at this point he doesn’t have an opinion on the nearly $1 million in compensation and consulting money Archibal is set to receive.    

Rather, Slay says he needs to examine all the details of Archibald’s contract before formulating an opinion. 

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter: @aallington