Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Say Danforth Has Conflict of Interest; He Is a Partner in a Law Firm That Has Had a Long Businesses Relationship Wth History Museum

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Say Danforth Has Conflict of Interest; He Is a Partner in a Law Firm That Has Had a Long Businesses Relationship Wth History Museum

Article excerpt

Considering John C. Danforth's rsum, it's not hard to see why he was asked to help quell the controversy surrounding the Missouri History Museum. As a former senator, ambassador to the United Nations and state attorney general, he may have seemed like a perfect choice.

Except for one detail.

Danforth is a law partner at Bryan Cave, the same firm that has enjoyed a long business relationship with the museum. The firm counseled the History Museum in the controversial land deal with former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., and has performed the studies that have helped justify President Robert Archibald's compensation.

Between 2006 and 2011, the History Museum paid nearly $277,000 in fees to Bryan Cave, according to a recent auditor's report.

Still, Danforth was asked last week by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and county Executive Charlie A. Dooley to negotiate a new plan for oversight of the History Museum, and provide a solution to some of the thorny issues plaguing the institution.

Danforth says there is no conflict of interest.

The mayor and county executive didn't ask him to investigate the property purchase or executive pay, he points out. They asked him to broker a deal between the History Museum's government-appointed commission and its nonprofit board of trustees.

"It's not a conflict," he said. "It's understood by everybody."

Dooley representatives did not return calls seeking comment. Jeff Rainford, Slay's chief of staff, said Danforth, 76, has a history of dealing with complicated issues and was unquestionably the right person for the job.

"Should people be angry at the History Museum? Yes," Rainford said. "Should people be angry at this nonsensical land deal? Yes. Should people be angry at Jack Danforth for trying to help fix it? No."

"There is not another citizen in St. Louis who has more integrity than Jack Danforth," he added.

But on Wednesday, at a meeting of the Zoo-Museum District board, some members questioned the possibility of a conflict. The ZMD oversees and distributes the tax money collected for five area cultural institutions, including the History Museum.

A former History Museum commissioner who attended the meeting, Odester Saunders, was dismayed when Danforth urged the ZMD to steer clear of immediately debating Archibald's pay and land deal. …

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