News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Museums left 'in shambles'
Jan 20, 2014 - Carole J. Boyd, Dubois
I recently attended a meeting of the Fremont County Museums Board, which was held at the town hall in Dubois on Jan. 10. The room was packed with Dubois citizens who were there to try to determine the intended fate of the museum in Dubois.
There were only four members of the museum board in attendance, because Steve Banks was relieved of his duties as chairman in a previous meeting, in what I believe was an underhanded and planned move by three members of the board. Steve's character was maligned, and unsubstantiated accusations were made publicly against him, and he subsequently resigned from the board. This fact was confirmed due to questioning by the audience at this meeting.
Three museum board members should at the very least be reprimanded for the ambush of Steve Banks. My personal preference would be removal of the three offending members of the existing board.
At the meeting Jan. 10, one Fremont County Commissioner was present and made a statement to the effect that the county commissioners hesitate to involve themselves to deeply in the board's business, because they (the elected officials) have been told by the boards that they "interfere" too much. We need to start electing officials who will take the authority they are granted and "interfere" every single time it is necessary. How long do you think a corporation would last if the CEO was told by every department under his authority to back off and not interfere with what they were doing?
Now, let us dissect this position taken by the commissioners. We, the people, elect commissioners to represent the will of the people, expecting they will appoint and oversee board members, who in turn will attend to and support the needs of the people in each of the communities they serve. Those needs are diverse, and one size does not fit all.
If the board members are not working with the individual towns to meet their needs, not the board's vision of the needs, then the commissioners need to clean house and let the communities submit the names of people from their towns who are willing to serve on the board and work toward a museum system that best serves all of Fremont County. The people of Fremont County are fully capable of handling the job.
Each community with a museum in the county system needs to be represented on the board. Dubois suffered the loss of an excellent librarian due to the politics of a county board, and a high-paid director overseer, and we do not intend to lose our museum to the same fate. The Fremont County Commission directed the board to hire a central director to oversee the county museums system as a cost-cutting effort and to streamline the operations. This directive may have merit depending on exactly how the job description is written, along with the outline of the duties and responsibilities for that position to make certain it is a streamlining move and not just another unproductive layer of government.
Speaking of job descriptions, I would also like to see a copy of the policies, procedures, bylaws, and list of the duties and responsibilities for the museum board.
The matter of ownership of all the artifacts and items donated to the Dubois museum from its inception needs to have written clarification from the county commissioners to the Mayor of Dubois. There is great concern over this matter from many of town's citizens.
The chairman of the museum board stated that misconduct was the issue with Steve Banks. When pressed for an example of misconduct, he stated that Steve stood up at a meeting, leaned on the table and pointed his finger at Mr. Lane while making a point. Mr. Lane took offense and said "he would not put up with that kind of behavior at a public meeting," which means that board policy is now defined by whether Mr. Lane's feelings have been hurt. When pressed for the board's policy on misconduct, he read the one-line policy which clearly had nothing to do with raising ones voice, pointing a finger or standing up from the table.
This board has left the museums in Riverton, Lander and Dubois in shambles. Good and dedicated people have resigned their positions, leaving Dubois leaderless with no plan for the programs or exhibits to go forward for the summer.
Dubois deeded the land under the existing museum over to the county in July of 2013, with the promise of a new building to house the historical items donated by Dubois citizens, to be staffed and maintained by the county. The board voted to allow the architect to produce bid ready blueprints, on a 3-1 vote. In my opinion the land should be returned to Dubois until the building is approved for construction by the county.