Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Opponents of the public-private partnership protested before the council meeting. Satirist Snick Farkas, who creates the "Colossus of Gold" cartoon, dressed in a lobster suit and held a sign reading, "Keep your claws off our museum."
"The city is giving away a valuable asset and getting virtually nothing in return," said former PG councilman Terrence Zito. "There's no guarantee in this."
But former council candidate Ken Cuneo voiced his support for the partnership. "They've reached a place where there is no way to keep [the museum] open without outside help," he said. "I'm cautiously optimistic that this is the best of poor choices. It's another path to keeping it open."
Under the agreement, the city will lease the facilities and collections to the foundation, contribute about $150,000 per year and remain responsible for maintenance and insurance. The foundation will run the exhibits and programs for 15 years and employ its own museum staff. Admission will remain free.
The museum's current staff of two full-time and two part-time employees received pink slips Wednesday, according to Museum Director Lori Mannel. The partnership means the termination of the city's employment contracts, though the foundation could hire the same people with no lapse in work. The agreement specifies that the foundation will try to maintain the current staffing level.
"They’re allowed to hire whoever they want. There’s no guarantee of employment," Mannel says. She skirts the question of whether the foundation will keep her in the director position: "We’ve talked about it. There isn’t an offer on my desk.”
On the other hand, she says, "If this contract doesn’t go through, I definitely wouldn’t have a job in November,” when the city runs out of museum funding.
The first reading of the partnership agreement was unanimously approved June 3. Councilwoman Carmelita Garcia cast the lone dissenting vote on the second reading. The partnership will be effective July 17.