Lawmakers call for mediation between Lincoln Library and Museum and foundation

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Statues depicting the Lincoln Family on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on Sept. 4, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – Illinois lawmakers are urging representatives from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation to work out their differences through mediation.

Earlier this month, the museum cuts ties with the foundation after neither side could come to an agreement on a memorandum of understanding.

Representatives told a House Committee that it tried for several months to come to an agreement with the foundation but were met with silence.

“We have made every effort to be professional and diplomatic in our public comments about the foundation, but I have to tell you bluntly, I’ve never experienced anything close to this level of stonewalling or hostility,” said Melissa Coultas, acting director for ALPLM.

In addition to disagreements regarding the MOU, ALPLM said it wanted transparency and wanted to know where all the money the foundation raised was going. According to Coultas, the museum calculated that for every dollar the foundation would raise, the museum would only receive 7 cents of it, a claim the foundation disputed, citing its tax documents.

“This is either knowingly untrue or suggests ALPLM had a baffling misunderstanding of tax forms,” said Erin Mast, CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. “As our tax forms prepared by the auditor clearly show, in this past year it was closer to 70 cents for every dollar that the foundation raised or earned and put toward ALPLM expenses.”

The Legislative Audit Commission has called a hearing for Tuesday, April 20 regarding the 2019 ALPLM audit.

State Rep. Terra Costa-Howard said the squabble is wasting Illinois taxpayer dollars.

“This does not belong in the Illinois House,” said Howard. “This belongs in either binding arbitration or mediation. What this is costing the people of the state of Illinois in legal fees right now is ridiculous.”

“I think we do have a responsibility as the legislature to ensure that this amazing jewel of the state is amplified, and is able to thrive and grow,” state Rep. Ann Williams said.

Both sides said they were open to future negotiations. However, a foundation spokesperson said they want to wait until a new director of the library and museum is named.

On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Gary Johnson will be the new Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Board. Johnson was appointed to the ALPLM Board of Directors in September 2019 after serving as president of the Chicago History Museum for 15 years.

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