Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is the Arizona Historical Society out of control?

Apparently, the Arizona Historical Society has the support of some very influential people in Arizona State government. Although it is an under performing state agency plagued with endless management problems, all attempts at oversight or control appear to fail.

The Jan 5th post on this blog described how the Legislature responded to Auditor General reports of improper AHS procurements and the failure of the AHS board to provide adequate oversight. Incredibly, legislation was passed to relieve the AHS board of oversight responsibility.

The January 3rd post described how the Arizona Historical Society was busted repeatedly by the Auditor General.  Apparently, someone in the legislature has been trying to provide some oversight. The following paragraph is contained in the Arizona JLBC Committee References as of 7/28/10|

116. The Arizona Historical Society’s Treasurer shall submit to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee a written report detailing all expenditures of non appropriated funds for the Arizona Historical Society at the beginning of each quarter. (A.R.S. 41.821E as amended by laws 1997, Chapter 58. Section 21 and laws 2002, Chapter 241, Section 17) (Applies retroactively to Aug 9, 2001)

However, champions of the sacred cow are apparently rallying the defense of the AHS.  House Bill 2016, sponsored by Representative Kavangh, promises relief.  Page 5 of the bill summary states the following:

Eliminates the state treasurer’s report to the JLCB detailing all expenditures of non- appropriated funds for the Arizona Historical Society.

Apparently, it is simply unreasonable to hold the AHS accountable for anything.
(see note at end of post).

An attempt to transition the AHS to public funding faired no better. According to the East Valley Tribune (2002), Governor Hull considered implementing $233 million in cuts recommended by the Goldwater Institute.  The recommendation included privatizing several state agencies, including the Arizona Historical Society.

According to Bob Boze Bell’s blog (2009), Governor Brewer was finally attempting to implement this plan in June of 2009. The plan proposed cutting the Society’s $4 million dollar budget by 20% per year, giving it a total of 5 years to transition to private funding.  The Executive budget summary stated “The Executive recommends a gradual phasing out of state funding for the Arizona Historical Society. The plan would remove 20% of the original 2009 year level of funding in each of the five years giving the Historical Society an opportunity to transition assets, staff, and funding to private donations and revenue.”

Then, as reported in the Jan 26th post, the AHS director wrote a letter to the Governor begging for a reprieve.  Strange and incredible things happened afterwards.  They are the unbelievable story told on this blog, beginning with the June 5th, 2010 post.  The AHS is being given a big new project (5C Arizona Centennial Museum per HB 2251) and control over much more state money.

Does the Arizona Legislature oversee the AHS, or do the friends of the AHS oversee the Arizona Legislature?

Note added Feb 3rd:
Further review of HB 2016 showed that numerous reports are being deleted by that bill.  Therefore, it is possible that the deletion cited above was initiated by the legislature rather than by the AHS.  That leads to another question:

Why will there be no review of how public money is used?  Even the non-appropriated funds spent by the AHS should be monitored, because they get about $1 million per year from the state land trust.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Did Governor Brewer make herself a deal with your money?

As reported in previous posts, Governor Brewer promised the people of Arizona that her “birthday gift to Arizona” (5C Arizona Centennial Museum) would be built and maintained with “no public funds”. As reported on the Jan 21st post, the Governor was recently caught trying to break her promise by trying to divert public funds to the centennial museum.

However, was the promise actually not true the day she made it (Feb 14, 2010)? Circumstantial evidence (time line and actions) suggests it may have been.

In 2009, budget plans assumed the Arizona Historical Society would be weaned off of tax dollars and become self supporting.  Their approximately 4 million dollar a year budget was to be reduced by 20% over a period of 5 years to give them time to raise private support.  This is documented in the appendix to this post (June 7, 2009 letter from the AHS Director).

According to the Nov 14, 2009 AHS Board meeting minutes, Director Woosley said the following:

Woosley asked the Board for their patience and trust on a matter that she cannot yet disclose to them. She commented that it was awkward for her because her approach has always been complete openness with them. She has been in discussions at high levels about an AHS directed Centennial project. It is extremely delicate with many moving parts and may end up being the State’s main Signature Centennial project. Woosley said she was directed not to speak about the project until later. This means that she needs the all of the board’s patience because she knows the chapter boards want to embark on planning activities and projects for 2010. Woosley requested that chapter boards hold off and she would appreciate no new projects be identified until further word is received. She commented that if the Centennial project comes to pass, the staff, boards, and volunteers.

Subsequent minutes make it clear that she was referring to Governor Brewer’s 5C Arizona Centennial Museum.  Other documents show centennial museum planning began much earlier than November, when the AHS director first informed the board that there was a secret plan.  In an August 11, 2010 Arizona republic article (see Aug 17, 2010 post), the AHS Director was quoted as saying:

Historical Society leaders sat down with the governor, business leaders and a design firm about a year ago to discuss the museum's new layout. They want the renovated museum to have wider appeal but include components of the mineral museum.

So, centennial museum planning began about August, 2009, just a couple of months after Director Woolsey sent Govern Brewer a letter begging for exemption form the planned 20% per year budget cut.

Subsequently, the AHS budget was

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Governor Brewer’s pet project has $5,000,000 projected overrun already

At the Senate hearing on the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum bill (HB 2251), the AHS assured the Senate committee they had good solid cost estimates for the $9,000,000 centennial museum. In fact, as noted in the Aug 13th post on this blog, they had only a half page of rough calculations from their east coast designer.

As described in the Nov 5th and Jan 3rd posts, the AHS has a history for over running cost and missing schedules.  Now, history is repeating itself.

The 5C Arizona Centennial Museum has no chance of being open for Arizona’s centennial. None. Nothing has been accomplished in the first year and a half and no one is even pretending that it will open on schedule.   A Centennial Commission presentation to the Fountain Hills Town Council a couple of week ago projects an opening date a year or more after the centennial.

At a Senate JLBC hearing last Friday, the AHS lobbyist told the Senators that the new budget is $14,000,000.  There are rumors of private conversations with Arizona Centennial Board / Foundation members indicating it is actually $15,000,000,

Construction has not started, and the design has not even started.  In fact, a year and a half after planning began fund raising is (supposedly) just starting. No significant funds have been raised to date.

Therefore, the AHS and the Arizona Centennial commission / Foundation team have set a new record for botched program management.

An over fifty percent cost over run before anything even happens.

Quite remarkable.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arizona Historical Society looking for a dark spot to hide

As reported in prior posts, the Arizona Auditor General has repeatedly found serious problems within the AHS. The Jan 5th post summarized some of the problems related to procurement:
  1. Insufficient internal control
  2. Improper procurement procedures
  3. Conflict of interest
  4. Board not assuming governance responsibility
Incredibly, the legislature solved problem 4 by passing legislation relieving the board of any responsibility.

Now, Representative Kavanagh is attempting to provide the same relief for the legislature.  Since they can’t control this taxpayer subsided state agency, just cut it lose and let it do whatever it wants.

Kavanagh’s House Bill 2016 includes the following provision:

In Section 38 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 41-821 part E, delete the following statement.

The treasurer shall submit to the joint legislative budget committee a written report detailing all expenditures of nonappropriated funds for the society at the beginning of each quarter.

Again, very creative legislation.

If what you see is embarrassing (even illegal), just quit looking.

Both the AHS Board and the Arizona State Legislature get to wash all responsibility off their hands.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Arizona Mining Department on life support

The January 20th post described how Governor Brewer shut down the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources. It cited an article published in the Arizona Republic.

A subsequent January 22 Arizona Republic article described how, on Friday the 21, the Arizona Geological Survey offered to use existing resources to temporarily keep the department open. Most of the employees were rehired on Friday, the day the department was to close.

The article stated the temporary deal would keep the rehired employees working until the end of

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pet boondoggle protected by Governor Brewer?

Governor Brewers recommended FY 2012 budget shows no further funding for the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources.  In fact, she terminated the remaining employees on Jan 21st.  That is just a short very short time after the Governors office spent over 20 thousand dollars moving the department out of the mineral museum building.  That money was apparently wasted just to accommodate the Arizona Historical Society and her 5C Arizona Centennial Museum dream (taxpayers’ night mare?).

The AHS however, is still funded.  The recommended budget summary shows a reduction of $2,515,000, but that number involves some smoke and mirrors. The Governor increased the AHS budget 50% in FY 2011, so the proposed cut just returns their funding to the 2010 level.

Pages 34 of the FY 2010 Executive Budget Recommendations show

Friday, January 21, 2011

Governor Brewer is trying to break a promise to Arizona

Governor Brewer has begun undermining her own credibility.  When she presented the Arizona Centennial Museum in February (her birthday gift to Arizona), she promised that it would be built, maintained, and operated entirely with private funds.

Specifically, her February 12, 2010 press release (Governor Announces Centennial Birthday Present) stated:

The Governor also explained that no public funds will be used to build this museum. The Arizona Centennial Commission, the Arizona Centennial 2010 Foundation, the Arizona Historical Society, and representatives of the “Five Cs” are working collaboratively to collect the necessary private sector funds and renovate and maintain the museum.

However, now that the centennial museum fundraising effort has failed, there is tremendous temptation to make grabs for public money.  As previously reported on the Jan 18th post, the Governors FY 2012 budget proposal includes the following:

Pursuant to an FY 2011 initiative, the Mines and Minerals Museum is to be enhanced by making it a part of the new Centennial Museum, which will open in early FY 2013. --- As part of that initiative, a portion of the funding necessary to operate the Centennial Museum was transferred to AHS from the DMMR to fund a museum curator position and pay for rent expenses.
For FY 2012, the Executive recommends transferring from DMMR the balance of $120,000 to operate the Centennial Museum.

The attempt to transfer $120,000 of public funds to the Governors centennial museum was specifically brought to the attention of a Senate budget subcommittee this morning.  The senators were asked to please help Governor Brewer keep the promise she made to the people of Arizona in her February press release.

Note:  The use of the word “enhanced” in the Governors proposal is curious.  Preliminary design illustrations for the centennial museum, as used by the Centennial Commission and the AHS, have consistently shown total obliteration of the existing mineral museum.  Such very illustrations were presented to the Fountain Hills City council just last week. Will there be another broken promise?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A bit more sunlight reaches the Arizona Centennial Museum

The Aug 17th post described how Arizona Centennial Museum planners worked in absolute secrecy beginning in mid 2009.  The Governors office even placed state employees under gag orders to hide what was happening. In February 2010, when the Governor presented her “birthday gift to Arizona”, she spoke to a selected by invitation only group. On Aug 11th, the Arizona Republic published the first story clearly telling people what was actually happening to the mineral museum.

Today, the Arizona Republic published a second article related to the Arizona Centennial Museum.  It describes how the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (former administrator of the mineral museum) “ran out of money”, and was shut down.  The Governor actually starved the department to death by transferring most of their budget to the Arizona Historical Society, as documented by previous posts on this blog.

Arguments that the function of ADMMR should be funded by the mining industry are not unreasonable.  However, no money is being saved by closing the ADMMR.  The Governor is incrementally transferring their budget, and much more, to the Arizona Historical Society.

So, the real question is not: “Should the taxpayer have been funding the ADMMR”.

The real question is: “Is the Arizona Historical Society (5C Arizona Centennial Museum) more deserving of a state subsidy than the ADMMR?

States mining agency to shut down
Ryan Randazzo
Arizona Republic, Jan 20, Page D2.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More hogwash from Governor Brewer’s office

The following recently appeared on page 24 of the proposed FY 2012 executive budget summary (

Begin quote:

To streamline management of the State’s historical assets, the Executive recommends eliminating the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (DMMR) and reassigning its two major functions to related agencies.

Centennial Museum. Pursuant to an FY 2011 initiative, the Mines and Minerals Museum is to be enhanced by making it a part of the new Centennial Museum, which will open in early FY 2013. The Centennial Museum will be operated by the Arizona Historical Society (AHS). As part of that initiative, a portion of the funding necessary to operate the Centennial Museum was transferred to AHS from the DMMR to fund a museum curator position and pay for rent expenses.

For FY 2012, the Executive recommends transferring from DMMR the balance of $120,000 to operate the Centennial Museum.

Agency Merger. To reform the State’s bifurcated system of mineral promotion and education, the Executive recommends merging the remaining functions and funding of the DMMR into the Arizona Geological Survey.

DMMR maintains an extensive repository of historical documents and maps related to mining and minerals in Arizona. The Executive recommends transferring the repository and $100,000 to the Geological Survey for the cataloging and digitizing of those historic records, resulting in convenient online access and display of the material, thus giving the public a more comprehensive understanding of Arizona’s geological character and mineral resources.
End quote:
Questions from upper management (taxpayers)

  1. Will “streamlining” management structure be beneficial if one of the agencies receiving additional responsibility has not been able to handle the responsibility it already has (See Jan 3rd post)?

  1. Exactly how will transferring a top rated earth science museum (mineral museum) to an under performing non technical agency “enhance” the mineral museum?

  1. What is the projected attendance for a “centennial” museum that opens a year after Arizona’s centennial and a year and a half after the celebration begins? (Nationwide, average attendance at a history museum is 3% that of a science museum.)

  1. Since the entire staff of the DMMR was already eliminated (ref: yesterdays post), who will have the knowledge necessary to index and catalog the digitized records in a manner that will make them useful for mining engineers and mineral exploration companies?
  2. If bifurcation of mineral information was a problem, won’t bifurcation of scientific mineral specimens (now in the possession of the AHS) and supporting data (in ADMMR or AGS) be worse?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Governor Brewer’s hoax exposed.

As discussed in prior posts (Aug 11th, Oct 17th, and Nov 24th) the Governors office claimed that her 5C Arizona Centennial Museum plan was inspired by a desire to save the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources.  Supposedly, relieving the ADMMR from the burden of maintain the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum would enable them to continue their primary mission in the face of budget cuts.

In July, the Governor transferred most of the ADMMR budget to the Arizona Historical Society.  This assured the remaining staff would run out of funds before the end of FY 2011.

On Friday, January 14th, the Governor terminated the entire remaining staff of the ADMMR.

The hoax is now exposed. 

Note: The Governor's proposed FY 2012 budged includes $0 for the ADMMM and six million dollars for historical societies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lobbyists paid by Arizona Historical Society

How does a state agency with unsatisfactory performance (as documented by Auditor General reports cited in the January 3rd post) continue to receive multi millions of tax dollars every year?  How does it get a 50% budget increase in the midst of a financial crisis?

One way is to use a dirty little trick employed by way too many state agencies.  The AHS uses tax payer’s money to hire lobbyists to extract more taxpayer money from the legislature.  The taxpayer pays to pay more.

In April 2010, the Goldwater Institute reported that over 9 million Arizona tax dollars are paid to lobbyists each year.  Five million is paid to instate lobbyists and another 4.2 million is paid to Washington DC lobbyists.  Specifically, they stated that:
The size of an agency does not necessarily reflect how much it spends trying to get its way. Some of the biggest spenders are obscure state agencies or small communities. For instance, the Town of Queen Creek spent almost $100,000 lobbying the state last year, and another $90,000 on federal lobbyists, according to disclosure reports. The Arizona Historical Society, the state Board of Accountancy and the Arizona Medical Board all reported spending of more than $35,000 annually on lobbyists.
 The Goldwater report further revealed the reported cost of lobbying is usually much less than the actual cost. Although state agencies are supposed to report all lobbying costs, many either fail to do so or under report actual costs.  For example:
Phoenix reported $192,109 in spending on lobbyists last year, including $77,700 for three outside lobbying firms. In reality, those firms were paid $310,800, according to city records. The full cost of those contracts is not reported because the lobbyists do not spend all of their time talking to legislators.
 The report also quoted Senator Pearce as follows:
For the most part, what the lobbyists are seeking is money. It makes no sense that governments are cutting vital services like police protection and teachers, and imposing millions of dollars in new taxes, at the same time they are spending so much money on lobbyists.  I don’t need a lobbyist hanging around down here that is taxpayer-paid, who is only trying to get more taxpayer money. It’s like you’re funding your worst enemies.
I just think we’re very careless and reckless with the taxpayer’s money. We forget that people work for this money. We tax it. We take it by force. And we ought to be a little tender in how we spend it. If they are paying for government, it ought to be going for government.
Darcy Olsen, president and chief executive officer of the Goldwater Institute, was quoted as follows:
The amount of money being spent by governments to lobby the Legislature is an insult to taxpayers, as is the unwillingness of many agencies to fully disclose the cost. Taxpayer funded lobbying skews free speech by allowing agencies to push their agendas at public expense. That makes it tougher for average citizens to be heard and blocks reforms that are needed, especially in lean budget times.
The lack of disclosure makes matters worse by hiding the true cost of government-to-government lobbying. It’s an abuse of taxpayer trust and funds, but all the more so in a period of tough budget cuts and high unemployment. It’s just insulting.
Note: The 2002 Auditor Generals report (see Jan 3rd post) states that the AHS Executive committee hired the Board President’s son in law for $9,750 in lobbying services.  They exceeded their $5,000 spending limit without either obtaining price quotations or the approval of the State Purchasing Office.

Government Lobbying Payments Exceed $9 million
Mark Flatten
Goldwater Institute Watchdog Report
April 21, 2010

Friday, January 14, 2011

5C Arizona Centennial Museum Secrecy

As reported in the original June 5th post, the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum began in absolute secrecy.  Originally, the secrecy was intended to avoid opposition to the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum bill.  Now that the bill became law, why does the secrecy continue?

The museum is no longer featured or even included on the Arizona Centennial Commission website.

The most recent public meeting minutes posted by the Arizona Historical Society include this brief paragraph on the centennial museum:
Report of the Arizona Centennial 2012 Foundation Board Meeting
Woosley said the Centennial Foundation had received its 501 (C) (3) designation. She said the fund raising chair for the Foundation would soon be announced and that another pledge had been made by a major corporation. The Governor has not yet appointed the advisory council for the exhibit development. She stated that a series of meetings had been scheduled beginning this month to craft the content for the museum. Woosley said the museum would continue operating as it currently does until June 2011 to allow school tours and educational programs to continue through the end of the school year. The Arizona Department of Mines and Minerals Resources has moved out of the building and only the museum and lapidary shop remain.
 Note that meeting was in October, several months ago.

Anyone heard about a fund raising chair?

Which corporation made a recent pledge?

Who was invited to, or even notified of, the November meetings?

Why was money spent moving the ADMMR out of the building if there are no funds to build the centennial museum?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Arizona Centennial Commission’s copper chopper is not made of copper

The Arizona Centennial commission website ( now features the “copper chopper”.  Large pictures of this custom motorcycle are supported by text bubbling about how this bike will travel the state and stimulate excitement over the upcoming centennial.

The website features an article by Blanca Esparra-Pap entitled “Arizona Centennial gets its own mascot, Copper Chopper”.  The article describes how this “precious metal is giving Arizona new luster” and says “the Copper Chopper is a real motorcycle …. crafted from real Arizona copper…”.

Unfortunately, neither statement is true.

Copper is not a precious metal, and the copper chopper is not made out of copper.

Anyone with a bit of technical education, either formal or from experience, would know that a functional motorcycle cannot be built out of copper.  The physical and engineering properties are completely unsuitable.

Anyone who doubts that can simply look at the builder’s website ( and see that the “copper chopper” is built out of steel and aluminum, just like any other motorcycle.  According to Paul Yaffees own words on the youtube link, there will be one solid copper part on the motorcycle: the air cleaner.  There is also a chance that the gas tank will be replaced with a copper one before the bike is finished.  Other than some trim pieces, that’s it. All the other parts are merely copper plated or painted to look like copper. This is not said to denigrate Paul Yaffee’s work is any way.  His craftsmanship is obviously superb.

The problem is the Arizona Centennial Commission posting misinformation about the motorcycle on their website.  As reported in the Sep 17th post on this blog, Arizona already ranks dead last in science education.  The misinformation about the copper chopper will

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The end of the Arizona Historical Society subsidy?

Some time ago, the Arizona legislature did a smart thing (for once!).  They passed a “sunset” bill with expiration dates for state agencies.  If a sunset review did not determine that a given agency had continuing value, and it was not thereby reestablished, it would cease to exist.

Then, they did a dumb thing.  They passed another bill stating that if they do not do the review (do not do their job), then the agency will be automatically reestablished 18 months after it expires (slothfulness rewards incompetence).

Anyhow, Arizona Revised Statute 41-3014.01 currently states the following:

  1. The Arizona historical society terminates on July 1, 2014
  2. A is repealed on January 1, 2015

So, the AHS should have a sunset review before July 1, 2014.  That will include input from the upcoming performance audit described in yesterdays post. If there is a sunset review, the score the reviewers will see will most likely be (based on prior posts of Nov 5th, Jan 1st, and Jan 10th) as follows:

STRIKE ONE: The Marley Center Museum in Papago Park (Tempe)

STRIKE TWO: The Arizona History Museum at Rio Nuevo (Tucson)

STRIKE THREE: The 5C Arizona Centennial Museum (Phoenix)

Will the legislature then display the courage and common sense required to end the multimillion dollar annual taxpayer subsidy of the AHS?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Audit finally scheduled for the Arizona Historical Society

As noted in the Jan 3rd post, an Arizona House committee reviewed the unsatisfactory performance of the AHS in 1998.  Based on public testimony, the committee determined the AHS should be continued, but that there should be another performance audit in not more than 5 years.  However, the Auditor General files contain no record of any subsequent audit.

When asked why there was no subsequent audit, the Auditor Generals office responded saying they had no authority to do a subsequent audit.  They may only audit state agencies as required by statute or as directed and authorized by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (the watchdog may only bark when given permission to do so).

So, the subsequent audit did not happen because the Senate committee (see reference below) did not follow up on the recommendation they placed in their minutes in 1998.  Apparently, they are no better at managing the AHS budget than the AHS board is at managing the AHS.

However, the response from the Auditor General did state that in October of 2010, the JLMC did finally authorize a subsequent audit of the AHS.   That is seven years late.  Even then, the JLBC has no sense of urgency.  The JBLC is requiring the Auditor General to complete the performance audit by 2013.

So, the follow up audit will be completed 15 years after the previous audit documented unsatisfactory performance and 11 years after an investigative report documented conflict of interest.

Obviously, the JBLC does not keep very tight control of the public purse strings.


House Committee of Government Operations and Senate Committee on Government
Sunset Review – Arizona historical Society
Minutes of Meeting Thursday, November 12, 1998
Representative Flake, Co chair

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Update to “What’s happening to the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum”, Jan 2011

The original post (June 5th) summarized how the bill transferring the mineral museum to the Arizona Historical Society was prepared and passed by the legislature, and how the Governor tasked the AHS with destroying the mineral museum to create the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum.

The Oct 9th post updated that summary, following the formal transfer of the mineral museum to the AHS after the Governor signed the bill and it became law.

As of this date (January 5th 2011), the mineral museum still exists, but its future is very much in doubt.  School busses still arrive at the mineral museum, bringing students to an experience they remember for a lifetime.  The historic stamp mill is still operated periodically by volunteers, and the museum still serves children outside of Maricopa County with the outreach program.  Extraordinarily dedicated volunteers still operate the museum under very discouraging circumatances.

Informal reports say the museum will be closed in June. At that time Federal stimulus funds will be used to install solar panels, new air conditioning, and new lighting.  Presumably, the building is to be converted into the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum after that work is done.

However, the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum appears to be a failure in progress.  No funds have been raised, and no plans have been prepared. There are some indications that the 5C museum will be fitted with left over displays built for Best Fest by the Arizona Centennial Foundation.  If so, it could only open long after the centennial is over.

Documents reviewed on this blog show that the AHS has failed in the past on similar projects.  A failure of truly grand proportions is the Marley Center Museum in Papago Park in Tempe.  That museum never drew the projected crowds planners and promoters said it would.  This huge, not yet paid for building still costs taxpayers 2 million dollars per year.

Prior posts on this blog show (with cited supporting documents) that the planned conversion (mineral museum to 5C museum) will not reduce costs as the Governor claimed.  The AHS budget has already increased by 50% in FY 2011.

Recent publications (cited in prior posts) show that history museums like the proposed 5C Arizona Centennial Museum are failing across the country.  They are being replaced by far more popular science technology museums.  Why would a 5C history museum be successful?

Although mineral museum supporters negotiated changes in the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum bill, the AHS has never acknowledged them.  The changes require that a mineral museum remain intact within a portion of the building.  Even after the legislature passed the amendment, the AHS continued to promote their original plan.  That was to distribute what ever mineral specimens might remain in the building among the new 5C displays prepared by their east coast contractor.

What you can do:

 The goal of this blog is to repeal the very unfortunate and impractical 5C Arizona Centennial Museum bill.  The first step in accomplishing that is to kill the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum.

The Governor is believed to be pressuring Arizona mining companies to fund the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum. Yes, that right, she expects mining companies to fund the destruction of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum.  That is nuts, but if you to read all the early posts on this blog, you would get and understanding of how this peculiar situation came about.

Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Inc. is under particular pressure.  Their logo has even been placed on the Arizona Centennial Commissions website with the notation “major donor”. That appears like an attempt to embarrass them into hading over the cash.  (Note: The Governor is the Co chair of the Arizona Centennial Commission).

So, the most useful thing mineral museum supporters can do at this time is to contact Freeport McMoran and ask them to please not fund the destruction of the mineral museum.  If they do not cave in, hopefully the others will not either.

Freeport McMoran copper and Gold Inc.
333 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
1 602 366 8100
Community Relations
For general questions, call Community Relations at: +1 602.366.8116 or
+1 800.528.1182 extension 8116, or email us

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hear no evil, see no evil, in the Arizona Historical Society

As reported in the January 3rd post, the AHS received unfavorable reviews by the Auditor General from 1995 through 2002.  The findings included the following:

  1. Insufficient internal control
  2. Improper procurement procedures
  3. Conflict of interest
  4. Board not assuming governance responsibility

So how was this resolved?

Incredibly, the March 6, 2001 JLBC Staff Memorandum (from Richard Stavneak, Director) includes the following on page 7 (italics added):

Historical Society, Arizona (p. 171)
FY 02 and FY 03 Changes to JLBC: None
Footnotes: House and Senate both added the following footnote:
The Executive Director shall provide monthly financial reports to the Board of
Directors of the Arizona Historical Society and the Director of the JLBC Staff.
Statutory Changes : House and Senate both added an Omnibus Reconciliation Bill
provision that includes the entire text of SB 1297. Senate Bill 1297 includes three
statutory changes. First, it eliminates the need for the Executive Director to get
Board approval before spending appropriated monies. Second, it allows the agency
to retain interest earned on the Journal of Arizona History Fund. Third, it allows the
agency to retain interest earned on the Permanent Arizona Historical Society
Revolving Fund.

Now that is a truly creative piece of legislative work. Since the Board of Directors in not doing their job, simply relieve them of one of their major responsibilities.

What ever shortcomings our elected leaders may have, we cannot say they do not have imagination.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is the Arizona Historical Society Kafkaesque?

In a May 1996 Phoenix New Times article (referenced in a prior post), reporter Terry Greene Sterling described the Arizona Historical Society as follows:

In its 112 years of existence (the Historical Society is 28 years older than the state itself), the society has spun itself into a Kafkaesque bureaucracy. There are seven divisions. Four are geographical and have their own museums and boards. Then there is the exhibits division. And the publications division. And the administrative division. And there is the Arizona Historical Society Foundation, which raised money for the society.
All of the divisions answer to the Arizona Historical Society board of directors, the only state board with no legislative or gubernatorial appointees. The board appoints its own members.

Note 1: (from )
Kafkaesque is an eponym used to describe concepts, situations and ideas which are reminiscent of the literary work of the Austro-Hungarian writer Franz Kafka.  The term implies senseless, disorienting, and menacing complexity. It can describe an intentional distortion of reality by powerful but anonymous bureaucrats.

 “An eponym is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named. One who is referred to as eponymous is someone who gives his or her name to something.”

Note 2: (from ARS 41-821)
 “The society shall have a president, a treasurer, a board of directors, and other officers who shall be elected by the members of the society at times and by methods the bylaws of the society prescribe”.

The statute appears to include no other statement about how the board members are selected or appointed.  Apparently reporter Sterling was correct. The AHS reports to no one.  It is funded by the state, but not managed by the state. How unique.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The recent history of the Arizona Historical Society

When Governor Brewer announced her birthday gift to Arizona (5C Arizona Centennial Museum) she stated that the Arizona Historical Society would be responsible for administration.  In subsequent statements, the Governors office claimed that the museum management expertise of the historical society would enable it to replace the non self sustaining mineral museum with a self sustaining centennial museum.  The skills of the historical society would draw crowds that would provide funding.

Exactly how did the Governor make that determination?

Apparently not from history.

Reports prepared by the Arizona Auditor General from 1995 through 2002 show quite a different story. They show a seven year pattern of incompetence and even partial corruption.

A 1995 report highlighted two problems: the improper care of collections, and the ineffectiveness of the AHS Board as the Society’s governing body. The follow on 1998 report was more damming. It documented:

Poor project management
Poor exhibit procedure
Historical inaccuracies in exhibits
Improper storage of collections
Inappropriate storage methods
Inefficient use of storage space
Risk of damage and loss of artifacts
Insufficient internal control
Sloppy accounting practices
Inability to account for all monies taken in
Secret bank accounts
Employee theft of funds
Improper procurement procedures
Conflict of interest

The audits further stated that the board did not assume governance responsibilities, did not oversee fundraising, and did not provide adequate strategic planning.

A pitiful example of failure was the Marley Center Museum in Papago Park (Tempe). Although the building was completed in 1991, the museum first opened to the public five years later. Even then, the museum was only half finished. 

In 1998 the AHS had still only completed only 5 of 10 exhibits and had still failed to raise the 5.5 million (1986 estimate) to complete them. The AHS added more exhibits before planned ones were funded or completed.

When the public finally had the opportunity to visit the ten million dollar museum, few did. For example, during its first full fiscal year of being open to the public, the museum drew only about 25,000 visitors. However, the original concept plan had projected that the fully completed museum would draw 250,000 visitors annually.

Though attendance was low, cost was high because the Marley Center Museum’s exhibits used then up to date technology such as electronic maps, interactive touch-screen computer workstations, and film to tell various simple stories.

Will the 5C Centennial Museum be a repeat performance for the AHS?  There certainly appear to be common factors: high tech (high cost) displays for simple (boring?) concepts, east coast designers unfamiliar with Arizona, no clear plan,  no budget control, and a failed fund raising effort.

References (available at

Investigative Report
Arizona Historical Society
Conflict of Interest and Procurement Violations by Agency Officials
Debra K Davenport
Auditor General
State of Arizona, Office of the Auditor General
August, 2002

Procedural Review
Financial Audit Division
Arizona Historical Society
Debra K Davenport
Auditor General
State of Arizona, Office of the Auditor General
June 30, 2002

Report to the Arizona Legislature
Report to the Arizona Legislature
By Douglas R. Norton
Auditor General
State of Arizona, Office of the Auditor General
March 1998, Report No. 98-7

Report to the Arizona Legislature
Auditor General
State of Arizona, Office of the Auditor General
October 1995, Report No. 95-7

House Committee of Government Operations and Senate Committee on Government
Sunset Review – Arizona historical Society
Minutes of Meeting Thursday, November 12, 1998
Representative Flake, Cochair

Note: The minutes of the committee meeting conclude by stating there should be another audit in 3 to 5 years. Did that ever happen?  The Auditor Generals website shows no subsequent audit to determine if problems were corrected. Why not?

Saturday, January 1, 2011


This true horror story is much scarier than “The Museum after Dark”.  In this story, a ravenous monster eats tax dollars by the millions.  The story is not fiction, it is happening now in Arizona.  The new monster is the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum.

The monster in the original Arizona museum horror story was the Marley Center Museum, also know as the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park (Tempe, AZ).  According to news reporter Terry Sterling, it devoured ten million dollars as it hatched. However, the museum did not open until five years after the building was completed.  Even then, only half the displays were complete and the AHS had failed to raise the funding required to finish them. Sterling further claimed the high dollar displays incorporated simplistic explanations, inconsistent labeling, and factual errors.

Reviewing Sterling's article shows that the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum story and the Marly Center Museum story appear to share a common plot:
  • An Arizona history museum is designed by an east coast firm unfamiliar with Arizona
  • Simplistic display themes are implemented with high tech, high cost hardware
  • The taxpayers provide and maintain the building
  • The AHS is only required to raise funds for the exhibits
  • The AHS fails to raise sufficient funds
    Apparently high school history teachers are correct.  History does repeat itself.

    The future will likely show the two museums sharing one other feature: very low attendance.   Nationwide, there is little interest in history museums. According to “2009 Museum Financial Information” by the American Association of Museums (as cited in a Nov. 10, 2010 CAMA presentation by Peter Welch), a history museum is the least popular type of museum. Median annual attendance is only 10,000 visitors, about 3% the median annual attendance at science and technology museums.

    Pertinent questions:

    Was the Marley center Museum ever completed?

    What is the annual attendance at the Marley Center Museum?

    Why would the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum (another history museum) attract more visitors than the Marley Center Museum?

    Is there any reason whatever to expect the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum will be self supporting, as the Governor claims?

    Note : According to Arizona JLBC budget reports, the Marley Center Museum still devours over 2 million tax dollars per year.  The AHS budget was recently increased by over 2 million tax dollars per year as the centennial museum project was assigned to the AHS.  In Hollywood horror films, the first monster is at least killed before the second appears.  In Arizona, real life is scarier than fiction (at least for taxpayers).

    Online References:

    The Museum That Couldn’t Think Straight
    by Terry Greene Sterling
    Phoenix New Times
    Thursday, May 23, 1996

    The Way It Wasn’t
    by Terry Greene Sterling
    Phoenix New Times
    Thursday, May 23, 1996