The McPherson Museum board faced some difficult questions from donors Wednesday about the departure of its executive director as well as news the museum needs $300,000 to finish exhibits at its new facility.
Donors expressed concern no reason was given for former executive director Carla Barber’s departure as of Dec. 31. About 40 people attended museum’s annual meeting Wednesday.
“A lot of us gave sizable donations because of being approached by the director,” said Jerri Wall, a museum member. “I need an explanation of some sort.”
Mike Rausch, the board’s new president, said he could not comment on Barber’s departure for legal and privacy reasons.
“I hope in time we will be able to explain,” he said, adding later in the meeting the museum hopes to eventually issue a joint statement with Barber.
Barber told the Sentinel Jan. 11 she also could not comment on the reasons for her departure.
Annette Karr, museum member, said, “I think there is an angry population because we do not have an explanation. I feel this is not good PR. I have not put in a lot of money, but I put in a lot of sweat.”
A museum member asked Rausch specifically if Barber had been accused of embezzlement or any wrong doing. Rausch said no.
Nick Gregory, city administrator, who also sits on the board, said the museum board decided to go in a different direction.
The museum recently finished a multi-million dollar new facility at 1111 E. Kansas Ave.
However, Rausch said Wednesday the museum needs an additional $300,000 to pay for the completion of exhibits for the museum’s main hall.
He said the museum will continue to actively fundraise for the new facility.
“While the initial $5.6 million that was raised covered the construction cost of the building, unexpected costs for exhibits and displays and graphics still need to be handled. We are still in a situation where we would appreciate your thoughts and money.
“If you have not been in the museum, we have a gorgeous place, but we have not been able to display all the artifacts because of the time we had to vacate the old museum and the display cases and graphics not being ready.”
Siri Harrell, board treasurer, said $80,000 in tax credits are available for donations to the museum. Those who donate to the museum in 2014 can deduct the donation from their 2014 federal taxes and receive tax credits on their Kansas taxes. She said a $1,000 donation would cost a donor about $150 once all the deductions and credits were figured.
Barber and her husband continue to live in the Fields House to the west of the new museum building. The home is owned by the museum. Gregory said the Barbers will eventually move out of the home.
Page 2 of 2 - Harrell said the board can’t rent the building because it would mean the house would lose its nonprofit status and go back on the tax rolls.
Rausch said he was unsure the long-term future of the home.
The Vaniman House, which used to house the museum, has been sold. Rausch said the family, which has ties to the Vanimans, wish to restore the home.
The museum board is working to develop a job description for the new director. In the meantime, curator Brett Whitenack is serving as curator and interim director.
In addition to Rausch and Harrell, John Snell, vice president and Casey Law, secretary, were elected to the museum board Wednesday. The board currently has five vacancies.