The crowd at Thursday’s meeting at Dubois Town Hall wanted three museum board members to resign and former museum staff rehired. The audience is pictured here as the meeting began before the council chambers filled up. (June Bonasera photo)
(Dubois, Wyo.) – Thursday afternoon’s Fremont County Museums Board (FCMB) meeting in Dubois filled the Town Council meeting room with some 60 angry Upper Country residents demanding the resignation of three current museum board members and the reinstatement of a former museum chairman.
The drama began Wednesday night when Dubois Mayor Twila Blakeman and the Town Council discussed the museum situation with former museum director Katrina Krupicka Dingman, who resigned in December. Shortly after her resignation, museum curator Melinda Bobo also resigned her position. Those actions took place after the museums board removed one of its members, Dubois resident Stephen Banks, from his post as chairman for alleged “misconduct” back in October. He was not removed from the board, but he voluntarily resigned the next day. The alleged misconduct was not disclosed. See those posts here and here.
At Wednesday night’s town council meeting, Blakeman promised to present a letter of protest regarding recent issues impacting the Dubois Museum staff and former chair Banks to the FCMB meeting in Dubois Thursday. See that post here. Blakeman delivered that promise to the applause of audience members in the crowded council chambers, who were there to offer support to Banks, Dingman and Bobo and to express their thoughts and concerns to the museums board. Exchanges from the audience and Blakeman to the board became heated at times during the one hour 20 minute discussion on those topics.
Blakeman began by reading the first paragraph of a prepared letter to board chairman Jon Lane and members Carol Chidsey and Erin Shirley which read, “Mr. Lane, according to Treasurer Harnsberger, you told the County commissioners that because of our new Assisted Living Complex it would be hard for the Dubois Community to raise money for a new museum. Why would you say that? Why would you speak for the Community of Dubois? What gives you that right? You three people had undermined and removed the only person on the Museum Board who could address that.” The letter continued with additional questions and accusations.
In response to Blakeman’s opening paragraph, Fremont County Commission’s liaison to the FCMB, Stephanie Kessler, read a portion of a report written by Dingman and presented on April 11, 2013 to the Fremont County Commissioners. In that report, Dingman said the community had been tapped out. She wrote “The community of Dubois is not currently financially able to raise more $500K – $750K for a new building project. The current status of the economy in addition to the recent completion of a major capital campaign for an assisted living center has significantly depleted the community’s philanthropic coffers.” Bobo stated later in the meeting that Dingman was referring to the original $4.5 million project in the letter and not the recently reduced square footage with a smaller budget. The report refers to a 14,200 square foot structure.
The museum board members in attendance assured the mayor and audience that it was never stated by Jon Lane nor other board members that planning funds were to be withdrawn nor ‘taken away’ as stated by Blakeman in Wednesday night’s Dubois town council meeting. Chairman Lane stated that he had, in fact, voted in favor of releasing planning grant funds to the project architect for bid ready documents.
Former FCMB chair Banks also read a prepared statement at Thursday’s meeting. After several testy comments and questions from the audience which included recommendations to reinstate Banks, accusations that Lane, Chidsey and Shirley were guilty of ‘collusion’ and ‘board misconduct’ with further recommendations to have them removed from the board. Audience members further suggested to entertain the re-hiring of Dingman and Bobo if they were at all interested, and said Lane’s answers to audience questions were “lip service,” the atmosphere calmed and solutions to the vacancy created by Dingman and Bobo’s resignations were discussed.
The balance of the agenda was dealt with and the meeting adjourned into an executive session on real estate and legal matters at approximately 3:40 p.m.