In a letter Friday to the Explorium board chairman, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray wrote that he wants to know "what corrective actions" are being pursued to fix problems at the children's museum.
Gray's letter to Explorium board chairman Kyle Lake was in response to a story in Friday's Herald-Leader describing the museum's debt of nearly $200,000 to the city, and the resignations of executive director Michael Gilmore and his wife, Susan, an Explorium marketing staffer.
The city is working to recover overpayments made to the Explorium, which bills itself as Kentucky's only children's museum.
"As you can imagine, this morning's newspaper story about the Explorium raised considerable concern about the organization's personnel practices, board membership, nepotism, adherence to open-meetings laws, funds due to the government and general operational issues," Gray wrote.
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"Although our Department of Finance was already discussing the repayment of funds owed to the government, the first information the mayor's office had about possible problems at the Explorium came from the newspaper," the letter said.
"So I am requesting a letter from you by next Wednesday, Feb. 8, in order to better understand the issues, problems and corrective actions that are being pursued. After we receive your letter, we will also need a meeting to discuss those issues," Gray wrote.
"Since the Explorium receives significant public dollars each year from the city (this fiscal year $169,047), we have the responsibility to ensure these tax dollars are spent wisely and appropriately," Gray wrote.
"I am also responsible for appointing members to the Explorium board, so I want to be sure that community board members, especially those who oversee personnel and significant budgets, are operating responsibly, and with accountability and transparency."
Gray ended the letter by saying that he hopes Explorium Board members "will participate again" in training offered through the government so they understand their responsibilities.
Explorium board chairman Lake was out of town Friday and had not seen the letter, board vice chairman Sarah Razor said. However, she issued a response after the Herald-Leader supplied her with a copy of the mayor's letter.
"The full board of directors has not had an opportunity to review the letter from the mayor. However, we have always appreciated our relationship with the city and its support for our mission and contribution to the families of Lexington," she wrote. "As a board appointed by the mayor, we take the privilege of serving, responsibilities of overseeing and fiscal stewardship very seriously.
"We want to immediately begin to work side by side with the city to alleviate the concerns and take the steps necessary to ensure that the Explorium continues to fulfill its mission."
At a meeting Friday afternoon, the Explorium's newly formed transition committee held a meeting to discuss possible candidates for interim executive director and other issues.
After a closed session, committee chairman Tim Davis said a list of candidates would probably be submitted to the full board for consideration next week.
Committee members would not say who they would recommend to fill the interim slot.
"All of the candidates seem to have a passion for our mission," said Razor, who is a member of the transition committee.
The committee also approved a list of responsibilities for an interim executive director; a list of responsibilities for Gilmore, whose resignation is effective April 29; and a timetable for recruiting, evaluating and hiring a permanent executive director. The timetable will be submitted to the full board next week.
According to Susan Straub, Gray's spokeswoman, a city computerized accounting program that was not fully operational from July 2006 to June 2007 played a role in the city funding the museum more than it had budgeted for it.
At the time, the local government was processing all of the Explorium's bills, she said.
She said Friday that the city had frozen $97,000 in the Explorium's account with the city, leaving $194,000 owed to the city by the museum.
The Explorium now handles its own bookkeeping.