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Kansas City Council Acts To Take Greater Control Of Jazz Museum

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3

Acting to exert greater control over the financially strapped American Jazz Museum, the Kansas City Council's Finance and Audit Committee Wednesday approved two ordinancesthat would halt any new city money going to the museum, remove Third District councilpeople from the board and, eventually, clear the way for Mayor Sly James to name a new board of directors.

“We’re preserving what we have at the Jazz Museum now and certainly creating better opportunities for its future,” said Councilman Quinton Lucas, a member of the museum's board. 

The city doesn't want to run the museum at 18th and Vine Streets, but the council wants to keep an eye on things, he said.

“We the city, as a big contributor to the museum, we certainly have our interests.”

The council's action comes after a scathing consultant report that said Jazz Museum leadership was "responsible for numerous missteps, questionable decisions, and a lack of transparency."

The museum's executive director, Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, resigned earlier this month and was given a $77,000 severance package.

Council members suggested the city is in no mood to pour more money into the museum. That's why the committee passed the ordinance barring the use of city money to pay for an interim director without approval from the council.

City Manager Troy Schulte said that whoever is appointed to the new museum board should focus on hiring a new executive director.

“We’ve got some time now because the executive director’s position, while budgeted at the American Jazz Museum, is committed for a while,” he said, referring to the Kositany-Buckner severance deal.

The museum has named a staff member as operations manager to run the museum until an executive director is hired.

In the last two years, the city has pumped an additional $1.4 million into the operation, according to committee chair and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner.

At least one council member opposed more city control of the museum. Councilman Jermaine Reed sent a long email to Finance and Audit members Wednesday morning calling the ordinances "out of order, not in good faith, and only adding to the disarray."

But Wagner said the Jazz Museum in the past has not been as forthcoming with the council as he would like, making council involvement necessary.

“I have found, though, whenever we have actually docketed something, we actually get action and answers,” he said.

The full council will take up the ordinances at its regular Thursday meeting.

Sam Zeffis KCUR's Metro Reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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