Wednesday, July 4, 2012

And Just When You Thought the Barnes Foundation Fight Was Over ....

In what I would place in the “You’ve got to be kidding me” category of developments involving high-profile charity litigation, a story carried in both the Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times reports that a group opposing the now completed relocation of the Barnes Foundation from a Philadelphia suburb to a downtown museum has petitioned a Pennsylvania court to reopen the case allowing the relocation.  The basis for the petition is explained as follows by the NY Times:

The 2004 ruling by Stanley R. Ott of the Montgomery County Orphans' Court permitted the foundation, which had struggled financially, to go against the wishes of Albert C. Barnes, who built the collection and stipulated that no picture in it could be lent, sold or moved from the walls of the galleries that he built for it in Merion, Pa. Judge Ott said at the time that he considered the move "the only viable alternative" to save the Barnes from bankruptcy, but opponents argued that the foundation's troubles had been overstated.

In a new petition to the court on Monday, the Friends of the Barnes, which opposes the move, said the case should be reopened because the court was given inaccurate information about the foundation's financial health when it made its decision. The group cited a recent blog post by Kimberly Camp, the Barnes's president and chief executive officer from 1998 to 2005.

"Bankruptcy was not the reason we filed the petition to move the Foundation to the city," Ms. Camp wrote. "At the time the petition was filed, the Barnes Foundation had a cash surplus and we had no debt - none. But, saying so made the rescue so much more gallant."

Camp’s recent claims are being disputed, however.  The Times article says that Ralph Wellington, attorney for the Barnes Foundation, informed the Philadelphia Inquirer

that everything Ms. Camp and other Barnes officials said in court at the time of the original decision was "completely true and accurate." The Barnes had no debt only because of stop-gap financing provided by several charitable foundations to keep it solvent, Mr. Wellington said, and the cash surplus it had could not be used for operations. "All of the financials were completely public and in the record," he added.


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