ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–More questions about how a taxpayer-funded land deal at the Missouri History Museum got approved, as a new appraisal claims the land has costly environmental problems making it worth a negative $54,000.
In 2006, the History Museum paid $615,000 for a failed barbecue restaurant and lot on Delmar owned by former History Museum trustee Freeman Bosley Senior. The appraisal, commissioned by the Zoo Museum District, claims the purchase price was more than three times what the land was then worth, and that the deal went through — despite known concerns about environmental problems. The appraisal claims the cleanup of chemicals on the site would cost an estimated $300.000.
“The moral of the story is there was no one at the History Museum to say, ‘hey, let’s add it up, one more time,'” said ZMD board member Jerome Glick.
In the wake of the land deal, History Museum President Bob Archibald stepped down, with the face-saving gesture of a $270,000 consulting contract.
Both Bosley and Archibald have denied any wrongdoing in the land deal, which was originally intended to become the site of a satellite building for the History Museum. Glick says with the purchase price, legal fees and plans to construct a building there, the taxpayers have no sunk $1.3 million into the property.
“The only way we’re going to probably be able to get our money back is if there was fraud involved,” said ZMD board member Charles Valier, “And we don’t know that. The Circuit Attorney is investigating the transaction.”
Valier says subpoenas are being issued and the investigation is ongoing. The Circuit Attorney’s office offered no comment.
Valier says moving forward, ZMD board members want the History Museum to change its governing structure so that those making purchasing decisions answer to taxpayers. Toward that end, there could be funds withheld to exert pressure on the musuem, Valier said.