“Tattletale Culture”: City Audit Reveals Major Dysfunction at McAllen Museum

According to a lengthy report from city auditors, South Texas’ International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS) has some serious issues with governance, ethically questionable behavior, and protection of its artwork.

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Problems seem to have started in April 2013 when the executive director abruptly quit after clashes with the board president. Board member Kevin Graham took the interim position on a volunteer basis, but stepped down when Ingram started aggressively asking questions. One of the audit’s findings was that staff claimed that a board representative “asked them to arrange discounts or special prices for art from artists doing business with IMAS.” Graham believes that particular allegation was leveled at him and denies it, adding, “I think it’s symptomatic of a behavior that exists within the museum, kind of a tattletale culture.”

After another board member quit the executive committee to accept the interim directorship for a salary of $60,000, the taxpayer-funded museum requested an additional $41,288 from the McAllen City Commission (bumping the starting salary from $84,000 to $125,000) to help attract qualified applicants. The request prompted the audit, although the additional funding was approved.

Other allegations include “inappropriate meddling” by the board (who reportedly asked the staff members to copy them on all emails and, during the audit process, then instructed them to delete the emails), issuing a “Letter of Charitable Contribution” to a staff member’s wife without proper appraisal, and storing a $1.7 million Picasso yards away from a 18-month-old leak from the ceiling.

Some have stated that the final audit report has been “scrubbed a little bit” in order to avoid lawsuits and protect the museum’s reputation, although the current interim director now points to the report’s vagueness with her response: “Some of the issues were difficult and challenging to resolve because there was a lack of information.”

For more details of the IMAS staff/board/city dysfunction, read Dave Hendricks’ in-depth article in The Monitor.

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