Monday, September 26, 2005

Why The Sun May - Finally - Rise Again Over The Getty Museum!

To begin with - for those of you who have joined this soap opera late - if you put 'Munitz' in the above 'search this blog' box, you can access all previous posts on the subject, starting even before the existing scandals were uncovered.

And for those who have been following along, my last two posts have useful background information, along with the September 1st post.

Now as for my optimism that the rein of Getty Trust President Barry Munitz and Getty Board President John Biggs is about to end, there appears - finally - to be a convergence of factors to create the Perfect Storm.

First, there is now well documented (thanks to the LA Times) use of Foundation funds by Munitz for his personal use or for the benefit of Munitz's rich and/or politically connected friends. And both the State of California and even a Federal institution, the U.S. Senate - are now looking into those misdeeds.

Second, the fleeing of staff from the Getty will only continue - I have been told by people up on the Hill - if there is not a clear sign - soon - that Munitz is leaving.

Third, the complete failure of the Getty - with all its vast resources - to build even a second rate painting collection over the years - has alienated members of the art community who might have supported Munitz. But by buying friends and influence all over the world by spending the Getty's money there instead of buying art for Los Angeles, Munitz does not have the supporters he might otherwise have.

Fourth, the failure of the Getty to get a big name - or even a name, period, to take over as director was probably, finally, seen by Munitz as a good thing, even if that was not (as I suspect) his original plan. But having a director with no clout or power, seemingly makes it far easier for Munitz to control him as, again one would think, it would harder for him to control a director who had run either the Whitney Museum or the National Gallery in London.

But our Mr. Brand may yet prove to be Munitz's Achilles Heel. For if things get rough up on the Hill, and they will as the scandals and subpoenas come home to roost, it is one thing for a major museum director to quit in a huff and move on. These things often happen when high powered egos collide. And that director would then assured of getting another high profile job, with all the major positions presently open.

But if a relative unknown - picked from almost complete obscurity - were to announce that things were so bad up on the Hill - that he could no longer in good conscience stay... well, how could Barry ever explain that? How could John Biggs explain that?

Well, they couldn't. And there is no way Munitz could remain in power if that were to happen.

No, Barry Munitz no longer has the power in that relationship, even if neither one of them has yet realized it.

(The other good news is that Brand's reputation appears to be well earned. But more on that later)

Fifth, the LA Times article today (described two posts ago) describes hundreds of pages of internal Getty documents that prove that Munitz knew - in detail - of the potentially illegal activities of the Getty clear back in 2001 (he was hired in January 1998), and that he did nothing to remedy the situation.

Sixth, and most damning of all, Barry Munitz and his co-conspirator, Board Chair John Biggs - kept the existence of those and many other damning documents from the rest of the Board; the very Board that is legally required to supervise the Trust. And the two board members willing to speak out in public are... pissed.

Seriously pissed. From the LAT article quoted on Sept. 1st:

Two other Getty board members, Barbara Fleischman and Ramon Cortines, said they were unaware of the documents, and believed board members should have been briefed about what the internal review found.

Fleischman said she was "flabbergasted" to learn the Getty has documents it has not provided to the Italians."I'm shocked," she said. "My knowledge is that full cooperation has been given to the Italians."

Cortines said, "If there were pictures and if there were damaging documents, as a board member I believe I should have seen that and been informed. There should have been a discussion about how we as a board were going to respond."Stonewalling is not handling an issue," added Cortines, a former superintendent of Los Angeles schools.

And this was before the release of the latest, far more damning, hundreds of pages of lawyer's papers that the LA Times has obtained, that presumably - were never seen by the majorty of the members of the board.

So, as I said on my September 1st, it is one thing to lie to the Police, to the State, to the Federal Government and to random foreign countries - but it is another thing to lie to and create massive legal liabilities for a Board that can hire and fire you.

Now, hopefully, the LA Times Editorial Page will finally demand not just the resignations of Barry Munitz and John Biggs - but also that the entire board be restructured.

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