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Council under criticism Slavery Museum issues stir ruckus
Residents blast City Council members Devine and Kelly for questioning U.S. National Slavery Museum expenses

Date published: 12/14/2005

By EMILY BATTLE

By asking for more documentation of how the U.S. National Slavery Museum spent $1 million that Fredericksburg gave it under a 2002 contract, City Council members are showing a lack of support for the project.

That's the message four Fredericksburg residents delivered at last night's council meeting.

Mary Edwards, representing a local group called Citizens United for Action, asked why some council members want to see copies of studies the city money paid for.

"The money is being repaid with interest to the city by the businesses in Celebrate Virginia," she said. "Why are there still questions? Wouldn't it be better if City Council trusted the museum to act responsibly?"

Marguerite Young, also with Citizens United for Action, said she was concerned with remarks that council members made after receiving the report, particularly questions that council members Kerry Devine and Matt Kelly raised about some expenses.

"These statements seem to imply that the museum has somehow been irresponsible, and that's disturbing," Young said.

Devine said she simply wanted more information on the $547,761 the museum reported spending on personnel and administration. "It was basically a sort of line-item report," she said. "It didn't go into detail."

But city resident Frederick French said that since the city is getting the money back, council members should be satisfied with the report.

"This is a loan that is being repaid with interest," French said. "What else is needed?"

The 2002 agreement called for the Slavery Museum to perform various "governmental services," including marketing and tourism studies, traffic studies and plans for public facilities within the Celebrate Virginia South tax district where the museum is to be located.

City Attorney Kathleen Dooley said last night that the $1 million agreement wasn't an outright loan, but rather a contract by which the city gave the museum money to perform services for public benefit. The money is being paid back by businesses in the Celebrate Virginia South complex through a special tax.

City Manager Phillip Rodenberg said the money could be paid back with interest by the end of fiscal 2007.

Last month, the museum released a report on how the $1 million was spent, but museum officials indicated they would not be releasing any of the studies conducted with the city's money.


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