A Path to Fix the History Museum Mess; Archibald Aftermath - Return Power to the Subdistrict Commissioners, Who Are Appointed by the Mayor and County Executive

Article excerpt

With the resignation of Robert Archibald, the question remains whether the objective of corrective reform and change at the History Museum has been achieved. Dr. Archibald was the center of the current controversy, responsible for the purchase of the Delmar property at an unconscionable price, pledging $1 million for the Loop Trolley project, whose board he chaired, receiving generous compensation for the size and scope of the museum, and participating in the scheme to be paid $566,000 for unused vacation days as the recipient of 14 weeks time off each year. There are others whose complicity has not been addressed.

First, the Zoo-Museum District board, of which we are members, has served for 40 years as a polite luncheon club annually visiting each of the five institutions under our jurisdiction, supping with the commissioners and trustees, then setting the maximum tax rate permissible and going home, feeling we had done something laudatory.

Second, the commissioners of the History Museum subdistrict, vested with the power to operate the museum, ceded all their authority 25 years ago, and subsequently have acted as obedient sheep, never questioning any project, idea or action of Dr. Archibald.

Third, the trustees of the private, nonprofit Missouri Historical Society, who by contract with the subdistrict have exclusive control of the History Museum, were willing partners in Dr. Archibalds every whim. The trustees unanimously approved and shepherded the purchase of the Delmar property. They unanimously lavished $500,000 compensation that was excessive under the circumstances, set up the vacation scheme to reward Dr. Archibald, and then, as a final insult to our community, gave him over $1.3 million as a golden parachute.

Now, we are being asked to approve a sharing agreement fathered by former Sen. John Danforth, a partner in the law firm representing the History Museum. The annual budget of the Museum is $14 million of which $10 million is tax money. Yet the taxpayers are the junior partner in the plan?

The only substantive change from the flawed operation by the trustees is that the subdistrict commissioners will be equally represented on the executive compensation committee and have, at least, one member on each trustee committee. However, any contract with a new director will be with the trustees, who will continue to operate the Museum. …