Finance committee moves to tighten control over American Jazz Museum

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The city's finance committee Wednesday unanimously approved measures to stop any new funding for the American Jazz Museum and eliminate the requirement that council members from the jazz entertainment district be part of the museum's board.

This is part of the latest effort to end the financial bleeding at the tourist attraction.

After charges of financial mismanagement resulted in a taxpayer bailout totaling $1.6 million  for the museum last year, independent consultants recommended changes to the American Jazz Museum's leadership.

Chief among them: a refreshed board, smaller with fresh blood and new perspectives. And eliminating council representatives on the board, who may have undue influence over the museum's direction, given the city's large subsidy.

The proposal to stop new funding comes after the museum board failed to add any  outsiders as members. And third district Councilman Jermaine Reed remains a part of the board, despite the consultants and some council members believing he has exerted too much influence over the jazz museum's operations.

"This is a city wide asset, bigger than just one district, bigger than one person," said Councilman Quinton Lucas, who also represents the 18th and Vine area. "I think it’s important for us to see it that way. We have lots of citywide, important assets. I think it's important for us to find the best board members, not simply hold on to this."

Reed did not attend the committee meeting but in a letter to his colleagues Wednesday, he called the measures "political gamesmanship" and "a gross overreach of the city council's powers."

Reed says he should serve institutions in his district.

The museum board also wants the city to spend more to hire an interim director. The committee prefers temporarily turning operations over to the city manager's office, where no additional costs would be incurred.

"This group of council people are trying to say one individual council person does not speak for the entire council," finance committee chairman Scott Wagner said. "That seems to be part of the reason why we got into the issue that we have gotten into. It’s up to this council to say this is our position, as a body. That message becomes loud and clear for everybody."

The finance committee also is concerned that the jazz museum board is seeking an additional $77,000 from taxpayers to provide severance to Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, the former museum director blamed for drowning the museum in red ink.

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