Dowd: No proof of improper document destruction at History Museum
ST. LOUIS, Feb 20, 2013 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A nearly three-month-long investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Edward Dowd uncovered no evidence that Missouri History Museum employees improperly shredded or removed documents, Dowd reported to museum trustees Wednesday morning.
In fact, other museum employees contradicted some of the major accusations, Dowd told trustees, and video footage taken from security cameras showed that some of the alleged events did not happen on the days suggested.
"We were hopeful from the beginning that this would be the result," museum board Chairman John Roberts said after the meeting. "It simply confirms that the allegations being made, regardless of their source, were largely unfounded."
The concerns came to light late last year, when three directors of the Zoo-Museum District, which oversees about $10 million in tax dollars sent to the History Museum every year, told trustees about multiple allegations they had received from current and former museum employees.
Those directors, Gloria Wessels, Jerome Glick and Charles Valier, were concerned primarily with documents proving that History Museum President Robert Archibald was owed payment for 393 unused vacation days, totaling $567,000, which he was paid last year upon his resignation.
Dowd and his team, however, found no such evidence. "The investigation uncovered no evidence of any kind that Dr. Archibald concealed, destroyed or improperly removed any document of any kind from the Museum or that he instructed anyone else to do so," one of Dowd's chief investigators in the inquiry, attorney James E. Crowe, III, told trustees.
The museum hired Dowd at the start of December, just days after Wessels, Valier and Glick met with trustees.
Since its hiring Dec. 3, the team from Dowd Bennett LLP conducted over 40 interviews with current and former employees, and reviewed daily log books, security videos, emails and electronic pass-card reports, Crowe told museum trustees.
The investigation largely centered on allegations that operations director Karen Goering removed boxes of documents and shredded others.
A security guard alleged that Goering had removed 8-10 boxes from the museum on Monday, Nov. 26, Crowe said. Yet video surveillance showed that no one had done so on that Monday, nor any Monday in November.
Security video was not available prior to that month, Crowe said.
Moreover, Crowe told trustees, the team could find no employee to corroborate the guard's allegations. In fact, he said, other employees contradicted the guard's story.
As for the document shredding, Crowe said Goerring and her former assistant had indeed come in on a weekend to clean out "old color brochures from the Lewis & Clark exhibit." They shredded those materials "using the large shredder in the accounting area of the Museum," Crowe said in the report.
An employee who witnessed Goering's former assistant in the accounting area that day told Dowd's team "he only observed color glossy brochures in the box of documents."
Still, Wessels and Valier, who attended Wednesday's meeting, were critical of Dowd's work.
"He investigated the wrong dates," said Valier. The tips Valier received put the events on a Friday, not a Monday, Valier said.
And, as for Archibald's vacation days, Dowd's investigation doesn't change anything for him, Valier said. Calendars proving Archibald didn't take any days off from 1997 to 2007 have been destroyed -- a fact the Dowd investigation did not deny.
Wessels, too, said she was skeptical. The Zoo-Museum Directors had asked for a joint investigation, and didn't get it.
"I'm not questioning their veracity at all," Wessels said. "I'm just saying that if they would have included us in the investigation, and in choosing an investigator, I would have a lot more confidence in the results."
Archibald resigned in December, under fire for a $515,000 compensation package and a soured Delmar Boulevard land deal.
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