- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2005

The former treasurer for the Museum of the Confederacy said the museum’s board has mismanaged its finances.

The accusation follows the Richmond museum’s plea for a cash infusion from state taxpayers to help it survive.

David H. Rankin Jr., who resigned in September 2004 after having served four years as board treasurer, has taken issue with how Executive Director S. Waite Rawls III has handled the privately operated museum’s budget.

In a letter to a state panel, Mr. Rankin said the museum’s expenses increased by nearly $500,000 in one year and suggested the executive director was trying to doctor the financial picture.

“I wanted an honest budget and I felt that this was not it,” Mr. Rankin wrote. “And I also felt that the [executive director] had been deceitful with me and the committee so that he could increase spending in a manner that I felt the [museum] could ill afford.”

Mr. Rawls says the museum has a more than $420,000 budget deficit and may need to cut its educational programs to stay in operation.

“At least temporarily the commonwealth needs to take care of us,” he said yesterday.

Although he has not read Mr. Rankin’s letter, Mr. Rawls said the figures cited by the former treasurer are “badly out of date,” adding that the board may send the state panel a letter clarifying errors in the letter.

Brag Bowling, spokesman for the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said museum officials apparently have “cooked the books.”

“For years, the museum has failed to conduct any type of capital fundraising or meaningful advertising and promotion,” he said. “The present management of the museum has seemingly thrown up a white flag and surrendered. … It is a no-win situation and something must change.”

Mr. Rawls balked at calls for an independent audit of the museum’s books.

“We have an independent auditor and anyone who asks for it can get [it],” he said, noting the board reviews finances monthly under “very strict” guidelines.

The museum laid off one-third of its staff in 2003 to cut costs.

Last month, the state panel unanimously agreed to ask the General Assembly to set aside funds for the museum, which operates the Confederate White House.

Both have suffered from declining attendance, partly because of the expansion of the Medical College of Virginia, operated by Virginia Commonwealth University.

Mr. Rawls said the museum would use the taxpayer funds to cover the deficit and to finance further study of the feasibility of moving the museum.

Most heritage buffs oppose moving the White House, built in 1818. Moving it would cause the structure to lose its place on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

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