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    Safety Harbor museum board fires its president

    By AARON SHAROCKMAN
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 6, 2002

    SAFETY HARBOR -- The president of the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History's board was fired Tuesday amid allegations from its executive director she mistreated staffers and abused funds.

    The impromptu dismissal of Carol Bryant has city officials promising to look into the troubled group's finances. The museum is running deficits averaging $2,000 a month.

    Mayor Pam Corbino said she was disturbed Bryant was fired without a vote or discussion by the 12-member board.

    "That's not how we do business here," Corbino said. "We're going to have to look into this, since some $30,000 of the city's money was given to the museum this year. And they're going to look for the money again."

    The nonprofit museum's board plans to ask the city for $40,000, four times more than the city's initial aid in 1999, Corbino said.

    "They've invited very close scrutiny no matter what they request," said City Commission member Neil Brickfield, who attended Tuesday's meeting.

    Seven members of the board presented a signed resolution effectively firing Bryant at its regular meeting Tuesday. The other five members of the board, including Bryant, were not aware of the resolution before the meeting.

    The five nonsigners were not offered the opportunity to voice their potential support or concerns with the resolution, Brickfield said. Immediately following the resolution's adoption, the meeting was adjourned.

    The whole process took less than 90 seconds, Brickfield said.

    "I was shocked the process was so abrupt," said Commissioner Robin Borland, who also attended. "I felt like the members present deserved answers."

    The organization's by-laws state: "No meeting need be held by the board ... provided a majority of the members ... consent to such an action."

    "A motion was never made. A vote was never cast," Corbino said. "Without any discussion, they took action."

    The museum's bylaws also say a board member can be removed, "provided such officer has received written notice of the proposal ... at least two weeks prior to the meeting." Bryant received no notice.

    Betty Quibell, the museum's executive director, declined to comment.

    The allegations against Bryant surfaced at a closed meeting last Thursday. Bryant, a Safety Harbor real estate broker, last Friday said the abuse accusations were false and called the charges "misconstrued."

    Bryant said the museum had been running 40 percent deficits before she took over last fall. She claimed raising $5,000 for the organization in one month. She declined to comment Wednesday.

    Some members of the board who attended last Thursday's meeting had expressed concern that Bryant jeopardized the museum's nonprofit status when she paid bills following the organization's fish fry with cash.

    Bryant couldn't pay with checks because she couldn't sign them, only Quibell and treasurer Tom Anderson could, Brickfield said.

    "Why wasn't the president of the museum not given the ability to co-sign checks when all of the other presidents had that ability?" Brickfield asked. "And why wasn't the president of the museum not given the key to the museum like all the other presidents? Interesting."

    The board has not named a new president, its fifth in four years. Their next mission will be to heal a divided group.

    "There is serious turmoil, and they need to get their ducks in a row," Borland said. "If they need time, they can have it; but these questions need to be answered."

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