Monday, May 18, 2009

Dallas Museum of Art wants to keep Tut exhibit's financial details a secret

The Dallas Morning News (Brooks Egerton)

Taxpayers spend untold millions to subsidize the Dallas Museum of Art. But the museum says they have no right to know what kind of deal it cut with the for-profit organizers of the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit.

The Dallas Morning News formally requested a copy of the Tut contract in January, citing a state law that requires most nonprofit organizations to make their financial records public.

Museum lawyer Gary Powell said the DMA would not comply because it promised exhibit organizers absolute confidentiality.

The secrecy is such that the museum won't discuss basic contract terms and can't even say how many people saw the exhibit for free, the lawyer said. The DMA said it does not compile statistics on ticket sales or average price per ticket; that's under the organizers' control.

Powell also asserted that the state law on nonprofit groups applies only to those with "a specific problem – lack of accountability." The museum, he added, was not such an organization.

"The DMA's Board of Trustees provides a very appropriate and vigorous oversight of the DMA's actions and ensures that the revenues and donations the DMA receives are used wisely and appropriately," Powell wrote in a letter to The News.

Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, rejected the museum's legal interpretation.

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