St. Louis Board Of Aldermen Joins Investigation Of Missouri History Museum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Board Of Aldermen Joins Investigation Of Missouri History Museum

Apr 3, 2013

The St. Louis Board of Alderman is weighing into the ongoing debate over alleged misuse of taxpayer funds at the Missouri History Museum.

The BOA hopes to use its bully pulpit as leverage to improve transparency at the museum.

Members of the History Museum’s Board of Trustees, as well as its subdistrict commissioners were brought in to testify before the Board of Aldermen on issues ranging from, questionable land purchases, to compensation for former museum president Bob Archibald, to its use of taxpayer funds.

Alderman Joe Roddy Chairs the Aldermanic Parks Committee.  He plans to issue a report to the mayor’s office next month, possibility including a review of how city tax dollars are distributed the museum.

“There’s an expectation that the affairs would be conducted in a very open and transparent environment,” Roddy said. “And when we find out that publicly-appointed commissioners didn’t even know what the executive director of the history museum was making, clearly there is something wrong there.”

The Zoo Museum District’s Board of Commissioners is also weighing cuts to the museum’s tax subsidy, which is currently 74 percent of the History Museum’s budget, or about $34 per attendee.

Unlike the other institutions in the ZMD, the History Museum and the Botanical Garden are administered according to a public-private partnership, which is less beholden to public oversight.

John Roberts, who chairs the museum’s Board of Trustees, says removing the public funding is a drastic measure which would only hurt a beloved public institution many people in St. Louis have grown to love and cherish.

“What has gone on with a couple of members of the ZMD, and with hearings like this, is making it very difficult for our supporters to see where the museum is going," Roberts says. "Without the public money, the support is not going to be there.”

The History Museum’s former president, Bob Archibald, resigned last year and is still being paid under a temporary contract, which extends until June. Museum Chair John Roberts says the board is still a long way away from hiring a new director, but says everyone is anxious to stop focusing on the past and start moving forward again.

Given the amount of inquiry into the museum's affairs over the past six months it would be surprising if there were any new revelations at this point.

This is the most investigated institution in the city of St. Louis,” says Mayor Slay’s Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford. “They’ve been looked at by the ZMD’s Audit Committee, by the board of trustee’s private audit, by Board of Alderman, by Jack Danforth, and by the city’s personnel commissioner…I’d be surprised if there was anything left to discover.”

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter: @aallington