The Board of Directors at the History Museum of Mobile seems to be nearing a resolution in its ongoing dispute with the city over who has operational control of the museum.
On Monday, board members voted unanimously on an ad hoc committee recommendation to resolve the dispute. The recommendation, which must be adopted by the City Council, would allow the board to manage the museum, with funding provided by the city, board member Derek Atchison said. He compared it to the operation of Ladd Peebles Stadium.
“I just want to move forward,” Atchison said after Monday’s meeting. “I think everyone wants to move forward.”
The dispute is based on the interpretation of an ordinance established in 1965. Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office has called the board “advisory” in nature, but some board members, including Chairman Greg Reynolds, have claimed the board has full administrative power over the museum’s operations. Complicating the matter, the museum has been considered a city department since 2006.
As previously reported, the dispute started last year over fundraising responsibilities. It escalated over what board members said was a refusal by the city to allow the board to see original versions of financial documents and bank statements.
The dispute resulted in the board’s hiring of attorney Clay Rossi and, in protest, the resignation of five board members late last year. The Stimpson administration at one point even advised museum employees against communicating with board members.
In May, the board sent a proposed amendment to the ordinance to the City Council to help resolve the dispute. The amendment would clarify the roles of the city and the museum board.
If approved, it would give the board the power to set admission and fees for the museum. Last year, Stimpson made admission at the museum free to the public, a waiver that is partially responsible for a 40-percent increase in attendance during fiscal year 2015.
The amendment would also give board members clear authority “to control the expenditure of all funds received from any source for the operation of the History Museum, or museums established in the city.”
The amendment would also give the board clear authority to own, rent or dispose of real property.
Further, it would allow the museum to remain a city department — giving the city discretion over the hiring of an executive director and other staff members. Board members would be allowed to comment on staffing recommendations.
On May 22, Stimpson placed museum Executive Director David Alsobrook on paid administrative leave. The mayor’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper, explaining the move, said Stimpson felt a “change in dynamic” was needed to help resolve the situation with the board. Alsobrook is set to return to work July 6.
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