- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the city’s National Civil War Museum is “a monument to corruption” that should be shut down in the wake of a long list of criminal charges filed against the former mayor who was the moving force behind it.

But the board chairman of the nonprofit that operates the city-owned museum said Wednesday it has a fiduciary duty to keep it functioning and that Pennsylvania’s capital benefits from the tens of thousands of visitors the museum annually attracts.

“I would not close down the museum for any reason under any circumstance,” said J. Michael Love.

Former Mayor Stephen Reed was arrested Tuesday on charges that over the years he illegally diverted funds borrowed by municipal agencies for other purposes that later helped push the debt-strapped city toward bankruptcy. He allegedly used the money to buy thousands of artifacts from across the country for the Civil War museum and other historical attractions that he said he planned, including a Wild West museum that was never built, state prosecutors say.

Reed, a Democrat who served for 28 years until he was forced out in 2010 by an election defeat, faces hundreds of counts of theft and misapplication of property as well as criminal solicitation, bribery and tampering with evidence. He has said he will fight the charges.

Papenfuse said Tuesday that the allegations in the grand jury presentment make a strong argument that this is “a chapter we have to close for the city of Harrisburg.” He said he was overwhelmed by the number of untaken opportunities to stop Reed’s alleged crimes.

“So many different individuals should have basically stood up and said, ‘no,’” he said. “Should have resigned. Should have not let this continue at every single stage. The collective culpability that we all have is something as a city that we’re going to continue to struggle with as we move forward.”

The Civil War museum opened in 2001 on an abandoned reservoir overlooking the Capitol, although none of the war’s major battles was fought in Harrisburg.

The city owns the museum and most of its artifacts but the nonprofit has a contract to operate the facility that runs through 2039, Love said.

Papenfuse wants the museum to pay the city more for the use of the facility, while the museum board has complained that the city has not met its obligation to cover the cost of capital improvements and repairs.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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