City seeks control of International Civil Rights Center and Museum

by Jeff Sykes

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum has 30 daysto respond to Mayor Nancy Vaughan’s offer for the City of Greensboro to takeover management of the struggling facility.

Under the proposal offered by Vaughan at today’s meeting ofthe museum’s board of directors, the city would leverage existing municipalstaff and resources to operate the museum. The current museum board would bedissolved and a new board appointed.

“Obviously the museum has been struggling,”Vaughan said. “The news of the last week hasn’t been helpful. We wouldlike to see the museum be a success so we threw them a lifeline.”

Vaughan said the current ICRCM board is the biggest barrierto the museum’s success.

That board fired Executive Director Lacy Ward in a surprisemove last week. Ward recently made headlines when he reported severaloperational updates to the city council as part of a sustainability plan put inplace after the city loaned the museum $1.5 million to avoid default on largerfinancial obligations.

Several city council members stated then that Ward hadturned the museum around. City Manager Jim Westmoreland said that the future ofthe museum seemed positive under Ward’s leadership.

All that changed when the museum board fired Ward in a splitvote. Vaughan voted against Ward’s firing.

“He had started to build relationships that were givingthe museum some long-needed credibility,” Vaughan said. “I think hewas on the verge of being able to raise some money. There were people talkingvery positively about the museum.”

Vaughan said that after reflecting on the museum’s financesshe felt it became clear that the city could operate the facility at a lowercost than the current administration.

At today’s museum board meeting, member Skip Alston was makinga motion related to fundraising goals. Vaughan said she made a substitutemotion, which she described as a solution for the museum’s fundraising issues.

Once she began making the motion, which was seconded, boardmember Hurley Derrickson motioned to table the issue. Under rules of procedure,the motion to table takes precedence. It passed 10-9, Vaughan said.

Vaughan notified the board that her offer was good for 30days.

“We know that it is something that we can do and ifthey had said yes we would have been prepared,” Vaughan said.

The museum’s short-term financial prospects “give usconcern,” she added.

Transparency would be the operating principle if the citytakes over museum management, Vaughan said, noting that meetings and financialinformation would be “open to the public.”

“It is very important to preserve this symbol. It issomething Greensboro can be proud of,” Vaughan said.


“Thank you all for coming.

Today, I approached the International Civil Rights Center and Museum to express the City’s desire to operate and manage the Museum. I did so on behalf of the City Council and acting in my official capacity as a member of the Civil Rights Museum board.

This proposal from the City was tabled, but I have extended the offer for the next 30 days.

The mission of the Civil Rights Center and Museum is to ensure that the world never forgets the courage displayed by four young North Carolina A&T State College students in February of 1960. That heritage, and story, is extremely important to the City of Greensboro.

We, as a City government, are attempting to take what we consider to be responsible steps toward making the museum sustainable, viable and transparent.

In doing so, we propose that the board meetings and financial records be open to the public. We also propose that the board be representative of our community as a whole.

In addition, this is a move that makes sense. The City of Greensboro has demonstrated success in the Museum and travel and tourism arenas. And, we already have a fully functioning Historical Museum that tells the story of our great City – which means we have resources in-house to manage museum operations.

I think I speak for many when I suggest that we have concerns about the operations and management of the museum on both a short and long-term basis. The proposal for the City to operate and manage the Museum is a result of our focus on keeping the Museum open, making it successful, and restoring its credibility as an organization that can be trusted by maintaining public meetings and records, and striving for fiscal accountability.

Clearly, the City has demonstrated its commitment to the Museum in the past – most notably through the extension of a $1.5 million loan to assist in retiring portions of its debt and improving operations. We also consider that loan to be an investment in a Museum that we all want to succeed.

Our City – our country – is better for the actions of the Greensboro Four. We want to ensure that the story that is told about February 1, 1960 remains based in the City where those actions took place. That legacy is important to all of us, and we want to do what’s right in trying to make the Museum a sustainable destination for years to come.”