Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Civil Rights Museum (Part 1)

     Beware City Council!  It's coming.  In football terminology it's called an end around.  We are a little more than three months and counting until you have to make a decision on the loan you made to the Civil Rights Museum.  I assume it is still a loan.  A loan usually requires some type of collateral.  If there is no collateral then a loan is basically a gift.  As I understand from conversations with Council members and others in the community, the $1.5 million loan we provided is of a "forgivable" nature should the museum match donations dollar for dollar in the same amount.  This coupled with the approximately 4.8 million tax payers dollars already invested by the city as well as the $770,000 debt owed to Carolina Bank due June 30th and the $50,000 due the Community Foundation this month places the museum in a quite precarious financial situation, or as Skip Alston told Fox8 news in an interview on February 18th of this year "living paycheck to paycheck".  It has struggled since its' inception probably for a variety of reasons, most heretofore unknown.  A look at the "published" financial report on the museum website for the years 2010-2012 offers some insight.  The staff listed in 2012 included seven employees at a reported $496,131, an average of $70,875 a year per person.  There was also a separate category for "employee benefits" totaling $40,852 or additional $5,836  per person for a total average compensation of $76,711 per employee.  Also listed on staff were 10 docents (defined as volunteer tour guides).  This is a lot of money to pay for a 7 person staff and this figure represents a $236,376 reduction from 2010.  Reported contributions dropped from $709,481 in 2010 to $101,985 in 2012.  Both donation figures were less than the salary figures.  The Museum appears to have been paying its' employees beyond their means.  There are other expenditures but these salary figures stand out.
     Mr. Alston in the same Fox8 interview stated than he believed that approximately $900,000 of the $1.5 needed had been raised but added that he thought some should be considered better than nothing, believing the city should still forgive the rest anyway.  Now comes the mysterious hiring of a new Chief Operating Officer, Bayard Love.  Or has he?  The City Manager Jim Westmoreland believes so and has announced it.  The Museum's board chair Deena Hayes says a new C.O.O. hasn't been hired.  No one has been able to meet or contact Mr. Love even when reporters have gone to the museum. 
     Mr. Love has quite a resume; an undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies, a Masters of Business Administration from Kenan Flagler School of Business at UNC and a Masters of Public Policy from Duke.  He has a background in Business Consulting and on his Kenan Flagler profile describes himself as a "trainer with a national organization that consults with agencies, organizations and companies who want to eliminate disparate outcomes based on race and income".  Mr. Love's background also includes humanitarian work in the medical field in such catastrophes as Hurricane Katrina.  If you hired Mr. Love to consult with you about your business organization and finances it makes sense.  If you hired him to manage a museum, not so much.  So why the secrecy? 
     My hunch is that on July 1st the presentation to the council will go something like this.  "We don't have the $1.5 million.  Though we won't show you our books we can assure you we have raised about $900,000.  However, we just hired a new C.O.O. back in March and he has an M.B.A. from Carolina and specializes in helping businesses like ours.  But he has only had 3 months or so and has just got started so we believe you should forgive us the loan as we have now pointed ourselves in the right direction with our new hire.  Given another year or so he should have everything running smoothly".
     It's coming.  Don't be surprised City Council.  Mr. Love's resume and history suggests that he doesn't need a "full time" job and may just be consulting on the side instead of being a permanent every day fixture at the museum.  The Iranians have nothing on the secrecy of this museum's business dealings.  They have refused to show you their books yet continue to ask for more money.  They have hired and fired under mysterious and unexplained circumstances.  No one can seem to obtain an interview with any of the out going employees and get definitive answers from them.  WHY would we consider sinking another dime into this venture while it is being operated by the same people?
     I believe the City of Greensboro should foreclose.  No, I do not believe we should allow the Civil Rights Museum to perish; far from it.  I believe the city should foreclose to save it!
     My proposal in part two.

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