Museum funds being withheld

Director says he's not getting his money

The Museum of Northwest Colorado is having trouble getting the money it's entitled to, and Director Dan Davidson wants what's his. The money has already been collected, given to the Museum of Northwest Colorado Foundation for the Museum's use, and Davidson said he cannot get the full balance back.

The Museum has received almost no money to fulfill a variety of requests it has repeatedly brought before the Museum Foundation, now the Community Foundation, Board.

"I've received a total of two checks from the Foundation; one for $3,318.32 in June of 2000 and one for $1,998.88 in May of 2001," Davidson said. "We turned in over $4,000 in walk-in donations, plus there is about $6,300 specifically designated for the Museum from the First National Bank of the Rockies. When I ask for money for Display and Exhibit needs, or Museum expenses, I'm either refused or I don't get any response."

The refusals are usually based upon a series of technicalities that should have no bearing on the process, Davidson said. The Museum no longer turns over any money to the foundation, he said, and has had to put some of its own money toward cowboy and gunfighter collection payments, which the Foundation is supposed to be responsible for. After a request to the Foundation was refused, the only way the Museum was able to purchase a computer was to use direct donations.

The Foundation was established to raise money for the Museum. Sixteen percent of the museum's funds are used by the Foundation to pay administrative costs, a portion of which is the cost to hire a director responsible for raising more money for the museum.

"If you allow someone to take 16 percent of your money, it's so that person will make you more money, not go off and use the money for other things," Davidson said. "The Foundation has spent about $70,000 over the last couple of years and raised basically nothing. The funding for things like the historic preservation of the train depot is coming from the 16 percent the foundation takes from our funds; that money should be working for us."

Davidson asked the Foundation for a list of the donors, the amounts donated and where the donor wanted the money to go, but was refused.

"Money is put in the undesignated account even when it is earmarked for the Museum, and the money just isn't being made available to the Museum, which is its intended purpose," Davidson said. "There are some good people on the Foundation's board, but all the letters I've written and the requests I've made have amounted to basically nothing."

Pam Foster, president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Colorado, said all actions have been done according to the Foundation bylaws, and will continue to do so.

"All the requests from the Museum, per our protocol, which they and anyone today will have to follow, are deliberated for 60 days," Foster said. "The board would examine the request and make a determination on funding, which is a method we have always followed.

"Our original mission was a long-term goal, very long term, to make the Museum self-sufficient and to identify and preserve historical sites or buildings," Foster said. "Our new organization allows us to still do those things, but now we can do other projects with our wider scope. The Foundation signed a financial agreement with the county, and we haven't missed any payments, nor do we plan to, so I don't know what their concerns could be."

Foster described the Foundation as one in its infancy, and because of that, it needs time to build up its finances to a point where interest earned and donations collected would allow the Foundation to fulfill its mission statement.

"All donations specifically earmarked for the collection and the Museum, which we do have, will eventually go towards them," Foster said. "Every decision on a request is voted on by the board, and they vote to allocate what is feasible at that time. That doesn't mean the money is not going to get to the designated place."

Not all of the Museum's requests can be fully filled right away because the board has to look at more than just the stated need, Foster said. The Foundation has to allow money to earn interest and be available for investments, so the Foundation can expand and become financially stronger, she said. The total amount will be passed to the proper destination as it becomes possible.

"If we allowed the funds to simply pass through, the Foundation would cease to exist. We have a responsibility to our donors and ourselves to foster and expand the Foundation and that is a process that takes time," Foster said.

Both Davidson and the Moffat County Commissioners dispute the Foundation's interpretation of its original mission. They both contend the Foundation exists only to support the Museum through investment and fund-raising and to pay for the cowboy and gunfighter collection. Any other projects or expansions were not meant to be funded by these monies or by the efforts of this Foundation.

"The Commissioners don't want these funds whittled away through expenses and other projects," County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said. "If the Foundation can't do this job, we could just say 'thank you for trying' and ask for the money back, raise the funds on our own and be done with it.

"During the time the Foundation has existed, the Museum's raised $40,000 itself, so maybe having the county and Museum handle the money and debt is the best solution for all concerned," Raftopoulos said.

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