Panel OKs transfer of museum authority
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
2/19/13 at 7:24 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A Senate panel on Monday passed a measure that would transfer the controversial Native American Cultural and Educational Authority to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The authority is seeking an additional $40 million in bond money from lawmakers to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in eastern Oklahoma City.
After lawmakers last year declined to authorize additional bonds, the facility was mothballed.
Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said the measure would bring the entity under an agency that has been responsible with taxpayer money and that is transparent.
An audit released in October found multiple problems with efforts to create the center and museum.
The audit found that the board picked the most expensive proposal for a world-class facility without a commitment for funding.
Treat said he opposes more bonds for the facility, but is not against having the facility completed.
Treat said the measure would eliminate the commission overseeing the agency now, but is silent as to what will happen to its employees.
That decision would be left to the Oklahoma Historical Society, Treat said.
He said the Oklahoma Historical Society does not want the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, but the measure is a vehicle to find a place to put it.
The measure, Senate Bill 511, by Treat, was in the General Government Committee and now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"I have no comment," said Blake Wade, NACE executive director. "I don't know what he is doing or what his thinking is so I just would rather have no comment."
Wade said the authority was seeking $40 million in bonds to match $40 million pledged privately.
He said the private money will go away if the $40 million bond money is not approved this session.
To date, the facility has received about $97 million in state funds, nearly $15.7 million in federal funds and $8 million from other sources.
Supporters of a proposed Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, dubbed POPS, in Tulsa are also seeking $42.5 million.
Efforts to pass bonds for the facility failed to secure legislative support last session, as did a proposal for a bond issue to repair the state Capitol, which is plagued by electrical, structural and plumbing problems.
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is shown from its Eastern Avenue entrance in Oklahoma City in October. The Oklahoman file
Greg Treat: He says the Indian center authority should be under an agency that has been responsible with taxpayer money.