Independence Maritime Museum and Politics in the News

The Philadelphia Inquirer published another story today about the political intrigue surrounding the Independence Seaport Museum and a Pennsylvania State Senator. “Fumo severs connection to museum”.

Yesterday’s Cape Cod Times also published an article about the troubles facing former Independence Seaport Museum Executive Director John S. Carter. “Defense in suit asks for money”

What is going on with maritime museums and politics lately? Hopefully the Independence Seaport Museum and the North Carloina Maritime Museum can both convert this media coverage into something positive for their respective institution. 

“Any press is good press.” Not so sure in this case.

Technorati tags: , , ,

North Carolina Maritime Museum Experiencing Choppy Seas

North Carolina Maritime MuseumAn article from today’s The Daily News of Jacksonville, NC reports that the North Carolina Maritime Museum is experiencing some rough seas as a result of hosting last summer’s America’s Sail event.

For the past few years I have been following this event pretty closely as executive director of the American Sail Training Association (ASTA), the organizer of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE, an annual series of Tall Ships races and attendant maritime festivals across North America. Founded in the early 1970’s, in part to bring the 1976 Bicentennial Tall Ships event to North America, ASTA owns the registered trademark “Tall Ships” and therefore is sensitive to events that could potentially damage its brand. Continue reading North Carolina Maritime Museum Experiencing Choppy Seas

Rough Waters for the Independence seaport Museum

Checking through my feeds after a great vacation in Grand Cayman, I came across an interesting post on Maritime Compass about the Independence Maritime Museum in Philadelphia.

In June of 2006 after an “extensive internal investigation,” John S. Carter was “terminated” as president of the Independence Seaport Museum after 17 years at the helm. On January 22, 2007, the museum filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts, Carter’s home state, allegeding the misappropriation of $2.4 million. Ouch! Carter’s lawyer also confirmed to the Philadelphia Inquirer that his client is also under investigation by the FBI.

Ex-head of Seaport Museum accused of fraud – Officials claim John S. Carter defrauded the institution of $2.4 million to support his lifestyle – Philadelphia Inquirer (January 23, 2007)

Enigma who went overboard – Nobody acknowledges really knowing John S. Carter, who stands accused of bilking the seaport museum of $2.4 million – Philadelpha Inquirer (January 23, 2007)

Museum is righting itself, officials say – Philadelphia Inquirer (January 24, 2007)

Seaport museum alleges former president misused funds – Philadelphia Business Journal (January 23, 2007)

Suit alleges $2.4 fraud – Cape Cod Times – (January 24, 2007)

Former Seaport Museum Head Now Accused of Filching $2.4 Million – Wheremostneeded.org (January 30, 2007)

This scandal is tied into a larger one that involves a state senator whose name still appears on the Independence Seaport Museum’s website (as of this post) as a Member of the Board of Port Wardens which appears to be their governing body.

Carter’s salary was reported to be over $300,000 which was more than what the Philadelphia Art Museum, a world class institution, pays its president. While I have never actually visited the Independence Seaport Museum, this seems like a lot of money for a museum that reportedly has had to repeatedly dip into its endowment to shore up operating deficits.

As a former nonprofit executive director, I find this story to be very disheartening. Trust is the commodity on which nonprofit organizations trade; after it is betrayed it is difficult to win back.  With so much competition for philanthropic support, nonprofit leaders have to be ever vigilant in protecting the reputation of their organization and the social investments made in and by their community. This is a significant responsibility that must be shared by staff and board members.

I suspect that there is still a lot that will play out in this story in the coming months. Hopefully, the current leadership of the Independence Seaport Museum will take this crisis and transform it into an opportunity to make their organization stronger. The best place to start would be for the board carefully review their governance model and decisionmaking practices and to recruit a Level 5 Leader for the current president vacancy.

Technorati tags: , , ,