Museum board members say the search can't move forward until
"Before you recruit somebody, there's certain information they're going to want to know," said
For years, the Museum Complex Board essentially ran the city's museums, which are among
The natural history museum opened its current building in
"It's a magical place, for children and adults," he said. "There are very few cities this size with a museum, or museums, like this."
The Museum Complex Board, an 11-member body appointed by the
It was a complex relationship, or seemed to be. The museum board was a nonprofit, but it was a city-owned one. Employees at the
That all changed in March this year, when the board approached the
Bragg, who led the museum for 15 years, retired the day after the council approved the change.
"It seems an appropriate time for me to step aside as these changes occur," Bragg said in her resignation letter.
The change at the Museum Board seemed to happen overnight, but it was years in the making. For decades, the natural history museum and the
The Museum Complex Board coordinated those efforts, and it operated with relative independence, like any other nonprofit. Board members now say that's not how it should have been. As a city-owned nonprofit, they say, the board was supposed to have operated under the city's bid laws and other city regulations -- something board members began to realize late last year.
"We found out we had no independence," said
Just how that came to light isn't exactly clear. Johnson,
"It had to do with my coming here and trying to wrap my head around the city's component units," he said.
But that change coincided with a move by
In January, McCullars released a report alleging that Bragg had skirted city rules for paying employees. Among other things, the report claims Bragg gave employees -- including herself -- bonuses without withholding funds that would typically be paid into the state retirement system. McCullars also made a complaint to the
Bragg said various nonprofit boards associated with the museum had long been in the practice of providing employees with a Christmas bonus.
"We learned that a city employee cannot accept a bonus," she said.
Last week, Bragg forwarded to museum board members a letter from the
In a memo earlier this year, Johnson, the city manager, ordered McCullars to end his audit. McCullars said he no longer works for the city.
"I did my statutory duty in reporting abuses of power," McCullars said in an electronic message.
Johnson declined comment on the departure of McCullars.
"I will never discuss internal personnel matters, no matter what information is being put out there," he said.
'Not a show-stopper'
Museum board members are quick to point out that the city's move on the museum complex was far from a hostile takeover. And on the topic of a new museum director, the city and taking care to show deference to each other.
"Those decisions will be made by the city manager," Watkins said, when asked what qualities the museum board wants in a new museum director. She said the board will continue in a significant advisory role, but that the city chooses the director now.
"We're not even at the point where we can devote brain cells to the specifics of that," Johnson said. Before the search can even begin, he said, he wants to make sure he has buy-in from all the nonprofit boards that contribute to the museums -- the
"There are people who have lifted up this jewel of the city, and we want to make sure that they're involved in the decision," he said. "I want buy-in, and I will not move forward until I'm sure I have it."
According to Museum Complex Board documents, the museums are expected to bring in about
The museums expect to spend
Before the museum became a city department, the museums lined up with other nonprofits to ask the city for money. Johnson said the city typically gave the museums about
The museums also have about
In announcing her retirement, Bragg said she had originally planned to work at the museum through 2016, when the natural history museum is expected to undergo reaccreditation. Board members say that process will truly begin in early 2015, when the museum expects to start a self-analysis that is the first step of the process.
Johnson said he believes interim director
"I won't sit here and say that having a permanent director wouldn't be better, but it's not a show-stopper," he said.
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