Save the Corcoran Alleges “Malfeasance” by Museum Leaders

The nonprofit institution set up to protest the museum’s relocation has sent a damning letter via the legal firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

By: Sophie Gilbert

Save the Corcoran, the organization set up to officially oppose the sale of the Corcoran’s 1897 historic building in DC, today sent a letter via legal firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to the museum’s leadership alleging mismanagement, conflict of interest among board members and new employees, and corporate waste.

Addressed to Harry Hopper, chairman of the board of trustees, Fred Bollerer, president and CEO, and Lauren Garcia, COO, the letter states, “For the last several months, we have monitored events at the Corcoran and have engaged in an extensive factual and legal investigation of the Corcoran’s current circumstances. Regrettably, it has become clear that the Corcoran has been fundamentally and tragically mismanaged in recent years.”

Among the allegations:

—That the Corcoran’s intended move outside of DC is illegal and in direct conflict with the museum’s founding charter.

—That the board’s expressed interest in relocating to Alexandria is a conflict of interest given Hopper and Garcia’s involvement in the redevelopment of the Alexandria waterfront.

—That new communications director Mimi Carter is also invested personally in Alexandria, as a member of Securing Alexandria’s Future alongside Garcia, and a member of the Alexandria school board. The letter also states that Carter has “little to no relevant nonprofit fundraising experience.”

—That financial mismanagement has led to the Corcoran bringing in $3.2 million in charitable donations in 2010, compared with $20.1 million in 2001, $13 million in 2006, and $8.2 million in 2007. “The Corcoran’s financial woes are largely self-inflicted and irreconcilable with the money now being spent on consultants affiliated with Mr. Bollerer’s consulting firm,” states the letter.

—That potential donors have been turned away by the Corcoran because the museum “lacked a strategic plan and could not guarantee how the funds would be used.”

—That Hopper and Bollerer both left the country for several weeks at a time during the summer and fall when the Corcoran’s sale was first announced, at a time when “these leaders should have been devoting their efforts to strengthening the Corcoran.”

—That the reasons the museum states for needing to sell its building—including renovation costs that could total $130 million—are inaccurate. “Our factual investigation has confirmed that this number is wildly inflated and is not credible,” states the letter. “The $130 million figure bakes in high-end upgrades and repairs that, when pressed, Corcoran leadership concede do not need to be made.”

The letter asks that the museum stop any further investigation into relocating to Alexandria and fill the three vacant positions on its board of trustees with people selected by Save the Corcoran. “Given that conditions at the museum appear to be much worse than Corcoran officials are publicly acknowledging, we request a response to our demand for three Board seats by no later than Friday, October 19.”

We’ve requested comment from the museum and will update as we hear back.