Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thomas Paine Museum, New Rochelle: update

Dear Friends, this is a brief report of a conversation
earlier today between myself and the Asst. Attorney
General in charge of the investigation into alleged
malfeasance and sell-off of museum holdings at the
Thomas Paine Museum in New Rochelle, New York.
The call was made in response to several recent
inquiries from visitors to the Paine Museum who
found it closed and had been given various
explanations for its present status.

Most of you will at least know that a number of the
museum's rarest and most valuable holdings were
sold off back in 2005, the incident that finally drew
attention to endemic problems dating back
to 2001 and earlier.

The Thomas Paine National Historical Association (TPNHA)
was the administrative body of the museum from its founding
in 1925.

In answer to my questions, the following responses
were received:

1). Brian McCartin is removed from the
museum property and he is no longer associated
in any capacity with the museum or the association.

2). The TPNHA administration was judged not
competent to administer the museum's holdings
and no longer administers the Thomas Paine Museum
or its contents.

3). The museum and its contents are presently subject
to the authority of the Office of the Attorney General of the
State of New York and the Regents of the University of the State
of New York. The New York Historical Society has been
been given temporary custody of the holdings.

4). The holdings of the museum are the subject of a
510/511 petition (see attachment) which, in my limited understanding,
means they are to be disbursed to an established and professionally
competent museum and no longer held in the Paine Museum.

5). The disposition of the museum property itself (ie. the building
and real estate) is undecided at this time, the administration and
disposition of that property to be largely decided by the Regents or
their designees.

6). The fate of the TPNHA is unclear at this time, since its historic
charter of fiduciary trust of the museum no longer exists and the
exact nature and composition of the association is itself in question.

7). The next stage of investigation could involve potential criminal
or civil liability.

Some personal comments: most of you know that I and other trustees
resigned this board back in 2001 and went to the AG, IRS, and
Secretary of State of NY precisely over these and many other issues of
malfeasance and misappropriation by the "director" and "officers" of
the TPNHA. We believed that the officers operated outside the bylaws
and state law, donations were improperly disbursed, grants diverted to
improper and arguably illegal purposes, and then of course came the
sell-off of some of the museum's most priceless assets.

It took a long time to get anyone's attention, but the Attorney
General's office, once alert to the problem, has been diligent and
true to the public's interest. In my opinion, they deserve our thanks
and support. Credit also needs to be given to Irwin and Martha
Spiegleman of Amherst, MA, for it was (as I recall) Irwin who spotted
the sell-off and alerted the rest of us.

According to some reports, one or more of the individuals involved
with this failed administration -- and, in my opinion, spurious and
illegal Board -- have now declared themselves the officers of the
TPNHA. Use great caution in having dealings with anyone who claims to
represent the TPNHA. That organization has been effectively defunct,
had little or no membership, and operated illegally outside their
own bylaws for many years now. In my opinion, the best thing to do is
to stand aside, wait, and watch as the legal process winds its way
out. By the way, the monument is owned by the City of New Rochelle and
the cottage by the Huguenot Historical Association.

So that's all for now, Paine friends. I'm happy to respond to any
questions or requests for clarification, but virtually all I know
right now is included in this email. The Asst. AG has promised to keep
me updated and so when I hear more, I'll follow up again. Please let
me know if you have any further details to add and I'll include it in
future notices.

with best wishes,

Ken Burchell

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