A report released this afternoon by St. Louis city prosecutor Jennifer Joyce has cleared the Missouri History Museum of all allegations of criminal activity. But the report also scolded the museum for questionable behaviors.
The findings result from an investigation into issues that emerged during the tenure of former president Robert Archibald, who resigned in December 2012 after 25 years with the museum. Among the concerns were Archibald’s compensation, and the 2006 purchase of land on Delmar Boulevard for a community center that was never developed.
The report found that no illegal or false documents were involved in any compensation package, and that no related documents were improperly destroyed or removed. It also found no criminal activity associated with the purchase of the property, located on Delmar Boulevard. Former St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley sold the land to the museum. Bosley had also served on the museum's board of trustees.
The full report, which can be found here, also concluded there was no evidence that the museum improperly loaned money to outside agencies.
The report did fault museum officials for a "lack of communication, cooperation and transparency" that "created a climate conducive to misconduct." It went on to say that the situation contributed to "suspicions and rumors that fostered accusations of cronyism, kickbacks and criminal conduct."
In a written statement, the museum said it was pleased that the report turned up no evidence of criminal conduct. The statement also included an assessment by board of trustees chairman John Roberts' about a year of multiple investigations and audits.
"We have been poked, prodded and in some cases pilloried, but in the end, have emerged from the gauntlet cleared of the allegations made against us by our critics," Roberts said.
Roberts also pointed to recent adjustments in the museum's governance.
“Over the course of the past year, the museum has become a model for institutional change and accountability," Roberts said.
Charles Valier, a member of the Zoo-Museum District (ZMD) and an outspoken critic of the history museum, told St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon that the report "validated the concerns raised by the ZMD over a year ago.” He's also satisfied with the findings with regard to criminal allegations.
"It doesn't surprise me that no criminal charges were found. I never thought there was criminal activity," Valier said.
Since late last year, the museum has been embroiled in controversy around a number of governance issues including the land purchase. In November 2012, former Sen. John Danforth negotiated a new contract between the museum’s subdistrict of the Zoo-Museum District and the museum's trustees, in an effort to address those concerns.
Less than two weeks later, Archibald’s contract was shortened from three years to one. Under the new agreement, his salary remained at $375,000. But a $580,000 payout for Archibald’s unused vacation days would come from private money, not tax dollars.
A month later, Archibald resigned in the face of persistent controversy over his compensation and the 2006 land purchase. The museum bought the property for $875,000 but it was later appraised at only about one-third of that price.
Another issue involved accusations of document-shredding, removal or concealment in connection with Archibald’s vacation days. An earlier investigation by a former U.S. attorney turned up no evidence of wrongdoing in that area.
The History Museum hopes to name a new president in January. Two finalists are scheduled to be brought in next month, with a decision coming soon after the visits.