Mail envelopes on color background, closeup

Changes needed for Cave Creek Museum

Editor:

We want to let you know what we have discovered over the past two months at the Cave Creek Museum and trust that you will take the time to consider the information.

After receiving the December museum newsletter featuring the photo of the pioneer/history wing, we decided to go see it to believe it. The once interesting space is now stark, flat and virtually empty. For us, the “new” pioneer/history wing has become a symbol of the failings of the museum board.

We received an email from the interim executive director regarding a move of the museum, “within the desert foothills community.” While we are aghast at this prospect, let us review briefly how the museum arrived at this point. There seems to be an impression that the museum’s “current state” is due to its location, poor visibility, falling membership numbers and donations and lack of visitors. 

For 49 of the museum’s 51 years, it has been a viable, well-known museum in the community and state, with an active volunteer force, enthusiastic visitors, and successful fundraisers. In the last three years, board membership deteriorated, resulting in a revolving door of board members who apparently did not recognize their responsibility to properly govern the museum. Indeed, we wonder if the board is familiar with the museum’s Article I of the Articles of Incorporation which state:   

“Article 1: The name of the corporation shall be Cave Creek Museum Inc. and its principal place of business shall be at Cave Creek, Arizona, but the corporation may establish offices and do business elsewhere, either within or outside the state of Arizona, as the board of trustees may from time to time designate, where other offices may be established, and all corporate business may be transacted.”

The board had not done its governance duty by ensuring that the IRS 990s were kept up to date. The museum was on the verge of losing its 501(c)(3) status, until Retired Executive Director Jo Ann Stuckey alerted two board members that the last filing was for end of year May 2017. After three years of no filing, a nonprofit automatically loses it 501(c)(3) status the day after the required filing is due. No board member had checked on this filing as part of their legal responsibility. The end of year May 2018 filing is now posted on the IRS website. However, Arizona Corporation Commission filings are a mess with no continuity or accuracy on required annual reports and status changes.

The board’s failure to hold the annual meeting last May, which could have been accomplished electronically, not only violates our bylaws but also IRS, Arizona Corporation Commission, and Arizona Corporation Act laws. 

As of this writing the museum board has yet to form an executive director search, a position left empty since Oct. 1, 2020. The office seems to be struggling. As of Feb. 6, 2021, the museum’s answering machine is still not greeting callers with an identifying message.

We see the following urgent problems:

Financial (how come we were in the “black” two years ago and now, with no financials available, who knows? The board sold the museum’s land across the street, purchased with donated Becwar funds. The property, intended for future expansion, was listed as ‘priced to sell’ which it did in three days. Are other museum assets next?)

No knowledge of fundraising plans

Paid staff has supplanted volunteers at unknown cost

Failure to even begin a search for a new executive director

Unaddressed loss of involvement of members and volunteers

Failure to seek out those with institutional history of the museum, because many board members are new to the museum community

Lack of transparency regarding the land sale, its questionable pricing and rapid sale

Lack of transparency regarding allegations about moving the museum outside of Cave Creek

Lack of public trust.

Rather than contending with these issues, Board President D’Aliesio and his “like-minded” appointees (quote from Dec. 14, 2020, minutes) put their energy into a move? How does a move at this time, with the above problems (and a pandemic), improve the museum’s situation? 

Sadly, per the current bylaws, the membership has no power to remove board members, only to vote for them. Assuming this year the board follows the bylaws and federal and state laws, then an annual meeting must be called in May, electronically and/or in person. This will be our only opportunity to have a legitimate elected board. 

As longtime members and lovers of the museum, we urge you to write or call the board, to find out for yourself, if you can, what is going on. If you agree with us that the museum is in peril, please be vocal in your concerns. 

Feb. 22 is the next scheduled board meeting, which can be attended masked, in person or by Zoom (you have to email a board member to join by Zoom). 

Please anticipate receipt of annual meeting and board nominee information to be sure the meeting will be held and that elections are run properly.

Sincerely,

 

- Evelyn Johnson,

cactusmama.evelyn@gmail.com,

480-332-3551

- Jo Ann Stuckey, former executive director and ex-board president Cave Creek

Museum, jasconsultant@icloud.com

- Sue Mueller, azsuemueller@gmail.com, former board member, former board

president, Cave Creek Museum

- Pam DiPietro, palma40az@gmail.com, former board member, former board

president, Cave Creek Museum

- Stephanie Bradley,

stephaniebradley@cox.net, former board members, former board president,

Cave Creek Museum