Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hoeffel and Matthews are Reprehensible Cowards

Say "Bye-Bye to our County Treasure-Cowards King James the Turd and Prince Kartoffelkopf don't think the Barnes paintings are worth fighting for:


Officials Abandon Barnes

Commissioners decide to end fight in effort to keep art collection in county
By MARGARET GIBBONS , Times Herald Staff

COURTHOUSE — Montgomery County has abandoned its legal efforts to keep the renowned Barnes art collection in Lower Merion.

Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews and Commissioner Joseph M. Hoeffel III said Monday they have decided not to appeal a ruling by county Orphan’s Court Judge Stanley R. Ott that denies the county status in the litigation.

The county last year had petitioned to intervene, with an eye toward reopening litigation that in 2004 gave the Barnes trustees approval to move the $6-billion’s worth of Impressionist art to a new but as yet unbuilt museum in Philadelphia.

The judge rejected that petition, as well as a similar petition filed by the citizens’ Friends of the Barnes, in a decision he handed down last month. The deadline for filing the appeal of that May ruling is today.

Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. repeatedly has called on his fellow two commissioners to file an appeal.

“Of course we are very disappointed with that decision,” said Nancy Herman, a spokeswoman for the Friends of the Barnes. “They had nothing to lose.”

Hoeffel disagreed with that claim.

“We do not have a reasonable expectation of reversing the four-year-old court decision allowing the Barnes to build a gallery in Philadelphia,” said Hoeffel. “Any further appeal of the recent decision denying standing for the county could bring sanctions against county taxpayers.”

The commissioners’ decision came after they received an e-mail message from county Solicitor Barry M. Miller, who recommended no appeal be filed.

“I believe that our common goal can best be achieved through other means,” said Miller.

“We made a great effort but that effort resulted in failure,” said Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews.

He cited the county’s offer last year to take out a tax-exempt bond of about $50 million, then using that money to purchase the Barnes land and buildings. The financially troubled Barnes Foundation could invest that money at a higher interest rate, using those earnings to pay the county a yearly rental fee equal to the county’s debt service, according to a plan devised by Thomas J. Ellis, the former commissioners’ chairman who is presently a bond counsel.

Also, the invested $50 million could serve as an endowment against which the foundation could borrow if necessary.

The trustees rejected that proposal out of hand.

One of the options under consideration is a proposal by Hoeffel to meet with the Foundation trustees, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Ed Rendell to discuss keeping the Barnes collection in Lower Merion.

“Our best chance of keeping the Barnes in the county is by working with the trustees but no one has been able to speak with the trustees because of the animosity that has been caused, in part, by the litigation,” said Hoeffel.

While Matthews is willing to give “discourse” a try, he said he is not optimistic that the county will be successful.

“How can you share in a treasure when you are cutting out its unique wholeness?” said Matthews, noting that not only is the art important but the building in which it is displayed and the eclectic manner in which it is displayed that is a reflection of the late Dr. Albert C. Barnes.

Castor was not available for comment Monday.

However, at last week’s meeting of the commissioners, he said the county had nothing to lose by exercising its right to an appeal on standing that has never been heard before the state Supreme Court.

Castor, a lawyer, said he did not believe the county would be financially sanctioned for pursuing its right to appeal. Convinced of this position, Castor pledged to pay any sanctions out of his own pocket.

Those sanctions, which would at a minimum cover the other side’s legal fees if the county lost, would run into the “tens of thousands of dollars,” according to Miller.

The appeal would also give the county leverage in getting the trustees to meet with the county, according to Castor.

The Barnes museum, which owns artwork that includes paintings by Matisse, Renoir and C├ęzanne, is located in Lower Merion on property owned by the late Dr. Albert C. Barnes.

Struggling financially, the Barnes Foundation went to the county court in 2002 for approval to relocate the art collection to a new gallery that will be built in Philadelphia to make the museum more economically viable. Court approval, which was granted in 2004 after protracted litigation, was necessary because Barnes, in his will, had stipulated that the collection remain in place.

So, Lets see....King James has given away the courthouse, now the Barnes, what possibly could be next? Ah, right...the City of Philadelphia has been pushing "regionalism" for over a decade...is this the year they get their wish? If we give away our assets incrementally, maybe we won't notice, eh, Turdmeister? Right, Kartoffelkopf? Feh!

B.


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