Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oh No. More Trouble at the Smithsonian

by Gary Snyder

It is inconceivable that the Smithsonian could, once again, be in trouble. The imponderable history (here, here, here, here  here, here, here ) of one our nations largest cultural institution is embarrassing, at best.

Last year Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa): “I am now concerned that Smithsonian Secretary Clough has incurred many of the same type of questionable travel expenses as his predecessor and his promised changes at the Smithsonian may have been little more than lip service.” Secretary G. Wayne Clough had taken 59 trips since he became secretary in July 2008 with trips to France, Alaska and “resort destinations in Florida and Colorado.” 

And while there is much talk there is no action. As taxpayer’s dollars and donations are squandered, there apparently is nothing that has been done to stem the almost decade long fiasco at the Smithsonian.

Now, charges of lack of transparency and trust among board members and Smithsonian officials has erupted. There has been a flurry of resignations that have taken place. Constance Caplan, the chairman of the Hirshhorn Museum’s board of trustees has resigned, citing a “lack of inclusiveness with which a number of trustees and staff associated with the Hirshhorn and the Smithsonian have behaved over the past year.”

She painted a picture of a board, a museum and the larger Smithsonian Institution roiled by a lack of transparency, trust, vision and good faith. These factors, Caplan wrote, led to the resignation of Director Richard Koshalek, who announced he was leaving in May after the board’s failure to reach consensus on his signature project, the Seasonal Inflatable Structure, known as “the Bubble.” 

Caplan is the third board member to resign since early last month, and the seventh to resign since last year. The resignation letter also referenced what Caplan called “the utter disregard” of her ability to set the board’s agendas and meeting dates, and the procedure by which Acting Hirshhorn Director Kerry Brougher. 


These charges reflect similar allegations that have been put forth by many others in the past decade.


Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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