Tag Archives: state museum

Former employee arraigned on charges of stealing $61K from TN state museum

A former employee at the Tennessee State Museum was arraigned Wednesday on allegations she stole more than $60,000 from the museum, reports The Tennessean.

Kathy L. Alexander, 60, was indicted on charges of theft of more than $60,000, forgery, identity theft and using a computer to commit fraud. She was arraigned by Nashville Criminal Court Judge Seth Norman on Wednesday.

Alexander is in custody and has been declared indigent. Her attorney, Kerry Haymaker, pleaded not guilty on her behalf.

Alexander was working for a staffing agency when she began at the museum in 2011. She was on parole for stealing from another organization at the time. Davidson County court records show she stole more than $43,000 by depositing company checks into a bank account in 2000 and 2001 while working as an office manager for Habitat for Humanity.

…In August 2014, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury issued a report about the theft from the museum…. The comptroller’s report describes a scheme in which the unidentified employee created fake invoices for historical artifacts. She allegedly used her son’s name as the seller of the artifacts.

The report also noted that museum leadership should do more oversight of purchasing, finding that the woman, now identified as Alexander, had sole authority to review those purchases.

Kim Kaegi, Emily Reynolds to lead TN museum fundraising

Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief campaign fundraiser, Kim Kaegi, and Emily Reynolds, who for years was the top staffer for former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, were picked Monday to lead efforts to raise $41.775 million in private funds for the new $160 million Tennessee State Museum building.

Further from Andy Sher’s report:

The state’s private nonprofit Museum Foundation unanimously approved the two with Reynolds, a Museum Foundation board member, resigning her position prior to the vote.

A formal contract for their services is expected to be ready for action by Museum Foundation members to approve by Sept. 1 at the latest.

Over the past 20 or so years, Kaegi has raised tens of millions of dollars in campaign cash for Republican politicians including Haslam and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Reynolds served as a chief of staff for Frist and was later secretary of the U.S. Senate and later headed the Tennessee Valley Authority’s public and government relations office.

“The fundraising team that is being proposed is a great combination,” Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate earlier told Museum Foundation members. “This was an idea the governor came up with.”

…Upon the governor’s recommendation this spring, state lawmakers approved $120 million in state funds for the project. Another $40 million will be privately raised through the nonprofit Museum Foundation, where contributions will be tax deductible.

During Monday’s presentation, Cate, whose last day as Haslam’s chief of staff is Friday, said the additional $1.775 million will cover three years worth of expenses related to staffing for fundraising, project coordination and communications as well as fundraising events like meals and venues and development of material to encourage large donors ranging from companies and private foundations to individuals to support the project.

Of that amount, staffing and consultants would account for $1.26 million.

The effort will include a project coordinator and there has been widespread speculation that Cate would be in line for that.

“My hope is somehow to be involved in the project because I think it’s a project I have a lot of experience in,” Cate later told two reporters.

But Cate, who in the past has been involved in real estate development and once worked on capital projects and raising money for Maryville College, said no decisions have been made on that for the museum project.

“My hope is there will be a place for me, but that hasn’t been determined yet,” Cate said.

Haslam to lead $40M museum fundraising effort

The campaign to raise $40 million in private funds for construction of a new Tennessee State Museum will be led by Gov. Bill Haslam and will spend an estimated $1.75 million on the fundraising effort, reports The Tennessean. That will be in addition to the target $40 million in private funds that will be coupled with $120 million allocated in Haslam’s state budget plan

“It will highlight the story and the legends and the glory of what Tennessee has been, as well as our mistakes and the complications of becoming what we are today,” said museum executive director Lois Riggins-Ezzell.

“And it will represent, I believe, through a great deal of effort, every area of Tennessee’s population.”

Mark Cate, chief of staff for Haslam, outlined the process for raising the money and constructing the museum Monday morning during a meeting of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission.

Haslam will appoint a steering committee to oversee the project; the state Department of General Services will work with a private contractor to handle the day-to-day operations of the project.

Although specific details about the museum aren’t finalized, the museum is expected to continue operating from its current location in the basement of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for approximately three more years. In the meantime, Haslam proposes creating a New State Museum Campaign Cabinet to raise the $40 million needed to meet the expected $160 million project budget.

The Cabinet will hire a fundraising firm to lead the fundraising efforts. The information provided to the museum commission anticipated total fundraising efforts would cost $1.75 million. The team will need to raise that money in addition to the $40 million, said Haslam spokesman David Smith.

“Raising $40 million is never going to be easy, but I am confident that the governor’s putting together a committee of people who will have the ability to raise $40 million,” said state House Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, who also is chairman of the museum commission.

Further, from the Times-Free Press
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With $160M new TN museum coming, boards deal with controversies

The Tennessee State Museum is dealing with controversies ranging from a former employee’s alleged theft of $62,000 to the removal of two foundation board members who questioned several of the museum’s acquisitions procedures, reports Richard Locker.

The museum has two boards — one an oversight board that will receive $120 million under Gov. Bill Haslam’s current state budget and the other a foundation board will be involved in trying to raise $40 million in private money to go with the taxpayer funds toward construction of a new museum.

When the oversight board holds its quarterly meeting Monday, members will get their first briefing on plans for the new structure and, presumably, about the fundraising drive. Details of the campaign have not been publicly unveiled, but former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, a member of the board since its creation in 2010, says the drive should be transparent, with contributions made public.

Ashe, who has also raised questions about the museum’s operations during his tenure, asked that a presentation on the new museum be added to Monday’s agenda after an earlier draft made no mention of it. An update by the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, was added.

…The private fundraising drive will launch without two veteran members of the Tennessee State Museum Foundation board who were not renominated for new terms last month: private-investment banker Charles Cook and lawyer Henry Walker, both of Nashville. Cook was also a member of the oversight board, but he was ineligible for reappointment when his term ended June 30.

In 2013, at Cook’s request, Walker reviewed a series of $1,000-or-more purchases of art and artifacts by museum staff and concluded, according to his written report, that up to 11 purchases over a 10-month period appeared to violate one or more of the museum’s acquisition policies, including lack of prior approval by a three-person committee and lack of “justification letters,” both of which are required for a purchase of $1,000 or more.

Cook also wrote a December 2013 memo to the museum’s executive director, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, questioning whether the staff’s purchase of a painting by a Nashville artist who served on the governor’s New Museum Task Force might have violated the museum’s code of ethics and the acquisition policy.

…Asked whether she expressed an opinion about Cook and Walker, Ezzell said, “I can’t recall everything that was said, but if I was asked, I think they were critical — consistently critical.

“I had a board that believed in this museum, believed in its vision 100 percent. I had no dissenters on that board. I had no one that didn’t believe in what we were doing, and as some new people were added from time to time, there was some dissension … and that is not productive. If you’ve got 90 percent that believes in the management and the vision — I’d say 95, 98 — and you have 2 percent that doesn’t believe that strongly, is it better to get rid of the 90 or 98 percent that does believe and has been there 10, 15, 20 and 25 years or the 1 percent that’s been there a year or two years, that has come in with a new vision that may not have been the vision embraced in the past?”

The 15-member oversight board, called the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission in honor of the retired state senator and longtime museum champion, is also waiting to hear whether Davidson County prosecutors will file charges against and seek restitution from a former museum administrative services assistant who state auditors last year concluded took nearly $62,000 in taxpayer money: $49,477 through phony invoice payments for artifacts to a fictitious company and $12,416 for a rental car billed to the museum for 15 months.

Note: Andy Sher did a similar story in the Times-Free Press. Non-duplicative excerpt below.
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