Arts & Culture
3:33 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Report Finds No Evidence Of Document Shredding At Missouri History Museum

Missouri History Museum
Credit (via Wikimedia Commons)

An investigation of the Missouri History Museum released on Wednesday found no evidence of document shredding.

Former U.S. Attorney Edward Dowd, of the St. Louis law firm Dowd-Bennett, was contracted by the history museum to investigate claims that museum staff destroyed documents following a $566,000 payout to former Museum President Bob Archibald, for unused vacation.

Several members of the City’s Zoo-Museum District Executive Committee claimed to have received tips about the shredding.  But Dowd found no such evidence.

“When we got into it and interviewed all of the employees.  Not a single person said that they saw any documents being destroyed or shredded.”

Dowd said that all employees interviewed were afforded whistleblower protection.  He says one employee claimed that Karen Goering, Managing Director of Operations, had removed documents by cart, a claim which he says was not backed up by an extensive review of security camera footage.

The ZMD board voted not to take any further action against the history musuem last November. John Roberts, Board Chairman of the MHM Board of Trustees said all along that the allegations made by a four-member group of ZMD commissioners have been baseless.

"The intimation of these individual ZMD Commissioners, who were not acting pursuant to any authority granted to them by a majority of their commission, has unfairly and without merit impugned the reputation of our loyal and hardworking employees.”

ZMD Commissioners Gloria Wessels and Charles Valier were present during Dowd’s presentation and later questioned the impartiality of his firm’s report, since he was hired by the museum itself.

“The more important point which he glossed over is that there are no records to independently verify the unused vacation time,” says Valier.

Dowd says he will forward his report to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office, where Archibald is also under investigation. 

Here's the full presentation from Dowd (added 4:02 p.m.):

Powerpoint presentation from Dowd Bennett LLP Re: Missouri History Museum by St. Louis Public Radio

In addition to the vacation payout, the history museum has faced withering criticism over its past governance practices.  Particularly a decision by the board which allowed Archibald to independently  purchase property on Delmar Boulevard that was originally designated as the site of a community center but ultimately never materialized.

The site had been owned by former Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr., who once served on the museum board.  Archibald paid Bosley $875,000 for the property, despite appraisals which showed it's value to be around $260,000.

Follow Adam Allington Twitter:  @aallington