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.

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