Politics
6:29 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

ZMD Will Not Take Further Action Against Missouri History Museum

Several months of scrutiny into the management of the Missouri History Museum has resulted in little change.  The commissioners of the St. Louis Zoo-Museum District have voted not to accept an audit committee report calling for tougher governance of the museum.

A vote to accept an audit committee report resulted in a 4-4 tie, meaning the motion failed.

The museum has been at the center of a months-long controversy involving a cozy relationship between embattled Museum President Bob Archibald and his board of trustees.

At the heart of the dispute is a general lack of oversight and accountability by the museum board, manifest most famously in a series of questionable real-estate deals and an abnormally lavish salary and benefits package for Archibald.

ZMD Commissioner Charles Valier accused both history museum trustees, and his own board, of failing taxpayers by allowing Archibald to receive what amounts to a retirement kick-back in the form of $571,000 in unused vacation dating back to 1997.

“It is the intention of the trustees to immediately pay over some $500,000 to Dr. Archibald,” Valier said.  “So I ask you, who is protecting the taxpayers here? Certainly it’s not the trustees.”

Archibald’s contract includes eight weeks of vacation on top of six weeks he takes annually as a sabbatical.

Commissioner Tom Campbell voted to reject the ZMD Audit Committees’ claims that both Archibald and the museum board have acted unscrupulously.

“This is a contractual obligation,” Campbell said. “What you’re suggesting is there be a breach of the contract.  There is a legal obligation for Dr. Archibald to receive the vacation benefits.”

ZMD Chairman Ben Uchitelle also disagreed with the audit committee, saying a series of reforms have already been put in place to bolster accountability and oversight between the history museum and its board.  Uchitelle has claimed all along that the payout to Archibald is legit, since it will be coming from “private donations” instead of taxpayer money.

Bob Archibald recently signed a new contract to manage the museum for one more year.

The vote by the ZMD does not put the issue over Archibald's controversial tenure to rest just yet. Commissioner, and former Florissant Mayor Bob Lowery said he's considering reaching out to the U.S. Attorney to see if possible criminal charges might be brought against Archibald.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter: @aallington